In 2019 Rónán Hession’s debut, Leonard and Hungry Paul, was published by Bluemoose Books, a small independent publisher based in Yorkshire’s Hebden Bridge. The book tells the story of two men in their thirties living pretty unremarkable lives: Leonard writes children’s encyclopedias; Hungry Paul lives with his parents and works casual shifts as a postman. Board games are played. A wedding is planned. Leonard meets a woman at work. Hungry Paul enters a competition to write a new email sign-off for the local chamber of commerce. A lot of the novel reads like the anecdotes my father-in-law tells: it is largely uneventful and hilariously over-detailed yet possessed of a particular sort of quotidian exactness that ensures that it blooms fully into life. The book’s vital characteristic is its gentleness – its generous humour and unconflicted celebration of kindness and friendship – and it’s this that helped it become a word-of-mouth phenomenon.
In many ways, Hession’s follow up, Panenka, is not a radical departure from Leonard and Hungry Paul. The writing is similarly lovely, occasionally poetic, mostly wryly ironic. And it, too, is set in an unspecified country – albeit one that’s probably Ireland, or maybe the UK – and peopled with