Eric’s stolen carefree streets

RONAN LEE was born in Galway in 1976 and it is in the Galway of the mid-to-late 1970s that his novel Let Dreams Be Dreams (Trafford Publishing ) begins.

“Eric was born in 1977, when times in Galway for a child were filled with so much innocence. His earliest memories were of those heartbreaking Monday mornings and that dreaded call to get up for school, Eric being the age of five. Just about to reach the pinnacle moment in his dream, the blankets where pulled back. ‘Come on, it’s eight o’clock’.”

Lee brings that lost Galway, with its evening streets full of boys playing ball and girls playing hopscotch, movingly back to life. Reading these passages my mind went back to summer evenings when we lived in the Rahoon flats and I would run out to play football after pretty much every match during the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina.

In the words of the Philip Larkin poem: “Never such innocence again”. Later I’d learn that many thought the World Cup should never have been held in Argentina that year because of the horrible right-wing military dictatorship in power there at the time.

We all learn that the world around us is not at all as innocent as our child’s view once made it seem. Eleven year old Eric’s boy innocence is shattered in a particularly brutal way.

He’s playing football by himself one day at the back of the Jes Secondary School and is approached by a middle aged man. The man promises Eric “loads of [Man] United posters” for his bedroom wall.

Eric, being an enthusiastic collector of football posters, goes with the man who then sexually abuses him. His carefree streets having been stolen from him, Eric spends more and more time at home and refuses to sleep alone in a darkened room unless one of his parents stays with him.

Eric’s adult life is a downward spiral of petty crime and alcohol abuse. His partner in crime is his best friend, Patrick. Eric falls in love with Patrick’s sister, Pauline. In an effort to “leave their cold, depressing lives behind them” they emigrate to the USA, where Patrick gets romantically involved with a Los Angeles Mafia don’s daughter.

Eric and his now family pay the price for Patrick’s Mafia dalliance and the story spins off into something beyond tragedy.

The Galway part of the story is much stronger. Los Angeles and the mob are all very well, but Ronan Lee is, I suspect, full of dark Galway stories which need telling and his time would be better spent telling those.

On the Trafford Publishing website he says: “If this book was to do well, I would definitely consider writing more.” This novel is uneven, certainly. It isn’t helped, I think, by the fact that Trafford is a ‘self’ publisher which requires payment from its authors towards publication costs.

This courageous novel would have benefited hugely from having a colder editorial eye go through it several times. That said, Ronan Lee is a Galway writer with real stories to tell.

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