Set in 2005 and structured around a Shakespearean monologue, Frankie Gaffney’s Dublin Seven tells the story of Shane, who has just finished his Leaving Cert. After his chance meeting in an early house with the elder statesman of local cocaine dealers, going on the session becomes more about making money than spending it. Gaffney skilfully traces Shane’s involvement with the Dublin drug scene and how his financial freedom and newfound sense of identity and belonging become entrenched in the dark ecosystem of the business. Typically for an Irish novel, the grim realities of the book’s characters are frequently offset by their comedic nature. While Shane’s anxiety regarding his future is present throughout, the story’s pacing and addictive quality reflects the youthful energy of the protagonist.
The systemic classism of the media, the Gardaí, and the law are artfully conveyed through Gaffney’s direct yet nuanced writing, and the critique is felt all the more deeply for its entanglement in the emotion of Shane’s life. Short and stylised vignettes resembling real-life artefacts close each chapter, adding to the milieu of social realism. Shane is not a hero, but it is difficult to criticise his flaws when the narrative so strikingly depicts the fragility of all the facets of his identity. In Dublin Seven, coming of age feels like simultaneously signing your death sentence. This is a memorable and vibrant addition to the landscape of Dublin literature.
Words: Peter Morgan