Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to read Paradise Road, the first novel from Stephen O’Donnell. I have never written a book review before, but I shall do my best with this. Firstly, and this is perhaps a rather obvious statement, I should highlight that writing any book is a big ask. As I am currently working on my own debut piece, I can understand the amount of work that Stephen must have put into Paradise Road.
Having read it from cover to cover, I must say that it is a thoroughly enjoyable tale, which follows the life and times of the main character, Kevin McGarry, whilst the trials and tribulations at Celtic Football Club, from the mid-eighties until relatively close to the present day, play out in the background. Kevin is a footballer in his early days, before a combination of factors lead to his realisation he will not “make it” in the game. However, this doesn’t stop him supporting the Club he loves, both home and away. His reflections on both the “modernising” of the game before his eyes, and his life as a whole, are thoroughly entertaining to dissect.
I am, of course, a young man, at only twenty two. For this reason, I particularly appreciated the areas of the book wherein Kevin is of a similar age to myself. Whilst there will be few people who relate to absolutely everything that happens to the characters in the book, the vast majority of individuals who read this book will find several points which will strike a chord with them.
The beauty of Paradise Road is that it will garner differing thoughts and reactions from it’s individual readers. It is not a generic book, but that is no bad thing. Written in a Glaswegian style, it possesses an trait whereby a character (often Kevin), can finish a sentence in a typically crude manner (as is often the way with Scottish slang), before their personal thoughts are described in fantastically intricate detail. The story itself is told with a dry wit and sincerity that most, if not all, readers of the book will appreciate.
Kevin is a clever individual, but like all of us, he is capable of making mistakes. His hopes, dreams, regrets and fears are played out in both clear and subtle manners, whilst the changing dynamics of Scottish society are reflected not only through his story, but those of his friends and relatives.
To say this is a book about Celtic would be doing you all a disservice on my part, because it is not that. In my mind, Paradise Road is a book about the life of a Celtic supporter. The Club are a constant in the lives of the majority of the characters, and the differences in personalities and approaches to supporting the Club are played out over the course of many years. Throughout the good times and the bad, Celtic is an almost omnipresent force, but it is not the be all and end all of the tale itself.
And so, to sum up, Paradise Road is a book I would highly recommend to anybody with a love of a good story. It is easy to read, but more importantly, it is enjoyable to read. If you’re looking for a book which is exclusively about Celtic Football Club, this isn’t it – but if you are searching for something a little different, something which explores the lives of some of the Club’s supporters as well as the tales of football itself, then this may well be right up your street – and that street is called Paradise Road.