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Book Cover for: Ordinary Human Failings, Megan Nolan

Ordinary Human Failings

Megan Nolan

Reader Score


76% of readers

recommend this book

Critic Reviews


Based on 14 reviews on

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When a 10-year-old child is suspected of a violent crime, her family must face the truth about their past in this haunting, propulsive, psychologically keen story about class, trauma, and family secrets from "huge literary talent" (Karl Ove Knausgaard).

It's 1990 in London and Tom Hargreaves has it all: a burgeoning career as a reporter, fierce ambition and a brisk disregard for the "peasants" -- ordinary people, his readers, easy tabloid fodder. His star seems set to rise when he stumbles across a sensational scoop: a dead child on a London estate, grieving parents beloved across the neighborhood, and the finger of suspicion pointing at one reclusive family of Irish immigrants and "bad apples" the Greens.

At their heart sits Carmel: beautiful, otherworldly, broken, and once destined for a future beyond her circumstances until life - and love - got in her way. Crushed by failure and surrounded by disappointment, there's nowhere for her to go and no chance of escape. Now, with the police closing in on a suspect and the tabloids hunting their monster, she must confront the secrets and silences that have trapped her family for so many generations.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Publish Date: Feb 6th, 2024
  • Pages: 224
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.53in - 5.78in - 0.62in - 0.74lb
  • EAN: 9780316567787
  • Categories: Family Life - GeneralCrimeLiterary

About the Author

Megan Nolan was born in 1990 in Waterford, Ireland. Her essays and reviews have been published by the New York Times, White Review, Guardian and Frieze amongst others. Her debut novel, Acts of Desperation, was the recipient of a Betty Trask Award, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.

Critics’ reviews:

Praise for this book
*Chosen as one of the best books of the year by The Guardian, The Times, and Sunday Times*

"A subtle, accomplished and lyrical study of familial and intergenerational despair, a quiet book about quiet lives... an excellent novel: politically astute, furious and compassionate... a genuine achievement."--Keiran Goddard, THE GUARDIAN

"A brilliant analysis of what happens when we treat horror and pain as entertainment. Nolan writes with great compassion."--Nicole Flattery, author of Nothing Special
"As much of a compulsive read as the first novel."--Claire Lowdon, THE TIMES
"One masterful novel... Nolan has excelled herself: Ordinary Human Failings is a raw, pulsing thing... A writer who's still at the start of what promises to be a splendid career. Ordinary Human Failings is a bold and beautiful second novel... daring in all the right ways, but compassionate when it needs to be."--Lucy Scholes, DAILY TELEGRAPH
"There is something wonderfully ordinary about this book... Nolan has set out to make a plain three-legged stool rather than an ornate grandfather clock. The corridors of contemporary literature are stuffed with grandfather clocks with faulty mechanisms. How much more valuable is this modest, well-made thing."--SUNDAY TIMES
"Megan Nolan's debut novel... saw her grouped with other Irish millennial women such as Sally Rooney and Naoise Dolan. But with her ambitious and insightful second novel, Ordinary Human Failings, Nolan makes it clear she is not a manifestation of a type, but rather a writer to be read on her own terms" --Melissa Harrison, FINANCIAL TIMES
"A feat of narrative compression that showcases Nolan's talent."--DAILY MAIL
"Page-turning and written with aching, compassionate insight. Each account leaves your heartstrings taut as cheese wire."--Holly Williams, THE OBSERVER
"A heartbreaking study in how humiliation and grief are passed from parent to child."--DAILY TELEGRAPH, Summer Read of 2023
"Heartbreaking, society-examining stuff."--VOGUE
"Megan Nolan is one of the brightest young things around."--THE TIMES, Summer Reads of 2023
"Nolan's prose is cool, elegant and, at times, stunningly beautiful." --Dominique Sisley, DAZED
"The final pages...moved me to tears. This is a fine novel by an author who, at just thirty-three, already has exceptional skill and nerve."--Emma Garman, LITERARY REVIEW
"A fearless writer... marks a confident evolution in her writing." --Bookseller
"Insightful...Nolan is a gifted writer, capable of stunningly precise observations. This unflinching tale provokes."--PUBLISHERS WEEKLY