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Amazon sent me a copy of Brilliant by Roddy Doyle in exchange for my honest opinion.

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I am happy to say that my honest opinion is that I love it.

I am a big fan of his work, both for adults and children. I have yet to meet a child yet who isn’t entranced by The Giggler Treatment, and he has gone from strength to strength in his writing since then. His recent novels for children have been more teen oriented, particularly A Greyhound of a Girl, so I was interested to see where he would go with this book.

I think it sits half way between books like The Giggler Treatment or Rover Saves Christmas, and A Greyhound of a Girl. The subject matter, depression and the toll the recession has taken on Ireland, and Dublin in particular, is quite a heavy one. His treatment of it however, with sensitivity, humour and a simple yet powerful narrative, means that this book is perfectly readable for children aged about eight and up, boys and girls.

It tells the story of a brother and sister, Raymond and Gloria. They have to share a bedroom since their uncle had his house repossessed by the bank, and has moved in with his brother and family to get himself together. The children love their uncle, but are bewildered by the changes to their household and feel that they need to know more. They have a game of sneaking down stairs and hiding under the kitchen table, earwigging on the adult conversation for as long as they can without being caught. One night they hear the family talking about the Black Dog and how it has stolen Dublin’s funny bone. It is this, says their grandmother, that has made their uncle depressed.

Gloria and Raymond know that they can do something to help, and set off into the Dublin night to track down the Black Dog and restore Dublin’s funny bone.

This is a wonderful fable about depression and recession and redemption. It is warm and wise, witty and funny and eminently readable. I loved it.

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