I really enjoyed Helen Cullen’s debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read her latest book, The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually. The unusual title comes from lines in Emily Dickinson’s poem Tell all the truth but tell it slant and, having read the book, I can see why it’s an appropriate title.
The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is a superb novel exploring parenthood, mental illness, loss, grief and above all love. It perhaps sounds from that list that it would be quite a heavy read but it isn’t. It is a compelling and emotive book telling the love story of Murtagh and Maeve and their four children, living on a small island off the west coast of Ireland.
Helen Cullen has written so poignantly and insightfully about the effects of mental illness on this family and I was particularly moved by the way Murtagh loved his ‘darkling’ Maeve throughout all her ups and down. He loved her unconditionally no matter what dark days they experienced. Maeve was someone who I think it is impossible to feel anything but compassion for. My heart went out to her when she said that she loved acting as she got to play a version of herself who wasn’t afraid and that this became her reality. Although this was about her acting, it was very much a reflection of her life too.
Following the family in the wake of their loss was emotional as we found out exactly how each member responded to the circumstances. I particularly loved the image of ‘kintsugi’, which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery in a way which does not hide the damage but in fact highlights it, using gold or silver lacquer to create something different, still beautiful, strong and whole again. This was so apt for the Moone family as they eventually healed in ways they could not have anticipated and found love and beauty again in their lives.
The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is beautifully written, compassionate and utterly compelling.
My thanks to Laura Nicol at Penguin Books for sending me a copy of this book. Please support a bookshop if possible when buying a copy of the book. Alternatively you will find buying options for various retailers on the Penguin bookshop here: The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually
From the back of the book
On an island off the west coast of Ireland, the Moone family gathers.
Maeve is an actor, struggling with her most challenging role yet – as a mother to four children. Murtagh, her devoted husband, is a potter whose craft brought them from the city to this rural life.
In the wake of one fateful night, the Moone siblings must learn the story of who their parents truly are, and what has happened since their first meeting, years before, outside Trinity College in Dublin.
We watch as one love story gives rise to another, until we arrive at a future that none of the Moones could have predicted.
Except perhaps Maeve herself.
The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is a celebration of the complex, flawed and stubbornly optimistic human heart.
About the author
Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She is the author of The Lost Letters of William Woolf which has been optioned for television. She was shortlisted for Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. To learn more, please visit http://www.helencullen.ie