Book Review: Wunderland – Caitríona Lally

Posted December 2, 2021 in Book Review, Print


Caitríona Lally

[New Island Books]

Wunderland is the much anticipated second novel of Rooney Prize-winning author Caitríona Lally.

On the surface, this is a book about Roy, a man exiled from Ireland under dubious circumstances to work at a model railway in Hamburg; his sister Gert, who has escaped from troubled waters at home to visit the younger brother she sent away; and the stolen miniature figures who populate the new life the former hasn’t quite made for himself in Germany. But once we have bought our tickets, found our seats on the train, and settled into the journey, we realise it’s much more than this.

Superbly insightful and darkly humorous, this dual character study examines the intricacies and failures of human communication. It’s a contemplation of language, of what’s lost and found in translation, commuting across the boundaries of understanding. The sibling-protagonists demonstrate how sometimes our words travel on a one-way ticket, or sometimes they come back changed, returning from their travels to tell us they mean something different now, that they have encountered new letters and tongue twisters and strange uses of the alphabet they thought they knew.

Intermittently switching tracks between Roy, Gert, and their experience of interior and exterior worlds, Wunderland also allows the author to “indulge [her] obsessions with trains and all things miniature, and to explore two characters coming at life from very different perspectives.”

Words: Hannah Clarkson


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