Published by Bloomsbury on March 4th, Bright Burning Things is the second novel by Irish actress, play write and novelist Lisa Harding. I read an ARC of this via Netgallley. Thank you to the publishers for this opportunity.
So, what’s it all about?
Bright Burning Things is a hard-hitting novel about alcohol addiction and mother-son relationships. It has been compared to Shuggie Bain, Booker Prize winner by Douglas Stuart, and I’ll happily admit that this comparison piqued my interest in this novel. For me, it also had Eleanor Oliphant vibes, but while it has echoes of these two in terms of its subject matter and narration, Bright Burning Things is very much its own book.
Lisa Harding has chosen to tell this story entirely from the viewpoint of Sonya, a young alcoholic mother and out-of-work actress who fell pregnant in London and returned home to Dublin to have her baby, Tommy. This book is about Sonya’s struggle to conquer her inner demons and maintain a hold on her son. We remain in Sonya’s head for the duration of the book: this not an easy place to be. Sonya is chaotic, impulsive and impetuous.
“My ‘tipping point’ was just an inevitable destination on the journey I had embarked on. My flirtation had turned into a full-blown affair. There wasn’t an ‘aha’ moment; the relationship was going along nicely, smoothly – a buffer – and then I woke up to find my every thought consumed. This is my story with alcohol, as with all the men in my life up to now.”
Sonya has two great loves in her life: her boy and alcohol. She loves Tommy fiercely, but is controlled and driven by her addiction.
“My love for Tommy is bigger than anything I’ve ever felt before, bigger than any love he can ever show me.”
Sonya is unreliable, and as readers, we are only given her version of events – we have to rely on the reactions of others to interpret what is really going on much of the time. Because this story focuses on a particular chapter in Sonya’s life, we don’t end up with resolution in all of her troubled relationships. The lens is very much focused on her, Tommy, and alcohol.
I was completely immersed into this Bright Burning Things and devoured it over a weekend. I found myself desperately cheering Sonya along from the side lines, screaming at her to make the right decisions. This book is not an easy read, and won’t appeal to all, but as with the best hard-hitting books, there is always hope, and I feel the balance was perfect here. I loved it!
Thanks for reading,
About the author:
Lisa Harding is a renowned actress, playwright and the critically acclaimed author of Harvesting, which was nominated for the Newcomer of the Year award at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2017.