Whereas Enright and Ryan’s novels displayed degenerated places, in Claire Kilroy’s novel place disappears altogether as a concept. It ceases to exist either as a place to inhabit or as a place to remember with nostalgia. The boundaries normally dening it have disappeared not because they have become invisible or because they have expanded too much and become too open, but because they have escaped the mode of representation at work in the world Kilroy has created. Claire Kilroy’s début novel, All Summer,1 was published in May 2003 and her most recent novels, All Names Have Been Changed2 from 2010 and The Devil I Know3 from 2012, have been published to critical acclaim. The story of The Devil I Know takes place in 2016 as Sir Tristram St Lawrence returns to Ireland for his trial after spending twelve years abroad. He had initially left his native country in 1994, just at the beginning of the Celtic Tiger and returned in 2006 as the Celtic Tiger was in full swing, before leaving again in 2008 when the economy collapsed and all the schemes he was involved in suddenly blew up. The narrative spans over a fortnight of trial between 10 March 2016 and 24 March 2016 as Sir Tristram is accused of involvement in scal fraud and his role in a construction corruption scheme is being assessed. The son of a very rich family and heir of the castle of Howth, Sir Tristram St Lawrence embodies ancient historical Ireland and the story shows how he is going to be swallowed up by the real-estate frenzy, the building of the property bubble and the general atmosphere of corruption, as he sets foot again on his native soil in 2006. Like Kevin Barry in City of Bohane,4 Claire Kilroy chose to situate her story in the future. Her novel challenges recent events by creating a temporal perspective, which enables her to represent those events by transforming the perceptions of space, place and landscape engendered by the Celtic Tiger boom and bust. Another specicity of Claire Kilroy’s novel is the special layout of the narrative, as each day of evidence corresponds to a new chapter. Moreover, each time the judge asks a question, a new page is started, inducing elements of theatricality in the process of reading that give more depth to the overall text. The narrative fulls a triple function. First, it points at the way in which the perceptions of space, place and landscape were affected during the Celtic Tiger boom and bust, as apartment blocks,
shopping centres, luxury gated developments and holiday resorts started dotting the towns, cities and countryside5 and how in turn all this modied people’s perceptions of what it means to be Irish, while also raising questions of representation. Second, the novel pinpoints the difculty to write about the contemporary period, because the Celtic Tiger narrative can be included within mythic narratives of the great famine, of poverty, expropriation and exile, narratives which the Celtic Tiger had hoped precisely to put forever behind and completely failed to do. Third, in questioning collective responsibility, Kilroy also points at individual responsibilities and reveals how, both lust and guilt, corruption and nostalgia are present at all levels. The very structure of the narrative, the intertextual presence of Laurence Sterne, James Joyce and Flann O’Brien reveal the changes that have affected not only the landscape but the relationship of trust between the Irish people, as well as the sense of place. Through its introspective and mirror-like structure, this novel shows ironically and tragically how reality has in a way exceeded ction.