3.59 (1,589 ratings by Goodreads)
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Catherine and James are as close as two friends could ever be. They meet in Dublin in the late 1990s, she a college student, he a fledgling artist - both recent arrivals from rural communities, coming of age in a city which is teeming - or so they are told - with new freedoms, new possibilities.

Catherine has never met anyone quite like James. Talented, quick-witted, adventurous and charismatic, he helps Catherine to open her eyes, to take on life with more gusto than she has ever before known how to do.

But while Catherine's horizons are expanding, James's own life is becoming a prison: as changed as the new Ireland may be, it is still not a place in which he feels able to be himself. Catherine desperately wants to help, but as life begins to take the friends in different directions, she discovers that there is a perilously fine line between helping someone and hurting them further. And when crisis hits, Catherine must face difficult truths not just about her closest bond - but about herself.

From the author of the multi-award-winning debut Solace comes another dazzling exploration of the complexities of human relationships, a novel about friendship and youth, about selfhood and sexuality, about the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we are taught to tell. Brave, moving and powerfully told, Tender confirms Belinda McKeon's status as one of the most exciting contemporary voices in Irish fiction.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 131 x 197 x 28mm | 304g
  • Picador
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main Market Ed
  • 9780330529907
  • 138,562

Review Text

Tender is an amazing novel, gripping, completely compelling, and at once demanding and satisfying. Belinda McKeon has an inimitable, to-die-for writing style, and a sublime talent for constructing a clear, often poetic exposition of the complexities of friendship and love, of the unfathomable nature of human relationships. Donal Ryan, author of THE SPINNING HEART
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Review quote

Tender is an amazing novel, gripping, completely compelling, and at once demanding and satisfying. Belinda McKeon has an inimitable, to-die-for writing style, and a sublime talent for constructing a clear, often poetic exposition of the complexities of friendship and love, of the unfathomable nature of human relationships. -- Donal Ryan, author of THE SPINNING HEART Tender rises above every other book on the shelf for its language alone; the beauty of each sentence will break your heart. But the story, full of the pleasures and terrors and betrayals of youth, will do that anyway. There is no way around it: you will weep. Spectacular. -- Andrew Sean Greer, author of THE STORY OF A MARRIAGE Utterly exquisite, unflinchingly observed, Tender is the story of a specific obsessive love, but also the story of youth itself, the blinding needs of heart and body, the illusion that one can change reality to suit one's desires - just by wanting to enough. McKeon's intelligence and insight shine through every page, and the words themselves perform miracles of revelation as they dance from one sentence to the next. -- Robin Black, author of LIFE DRAWING It's a great pleasure to read something so acute and beautifully written - especially the dialogue, the voices spring off the page - and also so subtly subversive. It's a story of self-realisation and artistic freedom told by the person who was realised upon. So many women will recognise themselves in Catherine. -- Kate Clanchy, author of MEETING THE ENGLISH Tender is compelling and deeply affecting: McKeon's prose describes the calibrations of emotions wonderfully, and the novel is great on friendship, on art, on being young and in love . . . I read it in a day. -- Nick Laird, author of TO A FAULT 'A perceptive, unexpectedly moving novel about friendship and love and all heart-stopping moments in between.' -- Jenny Offill, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of DEPT. OF SPECULATION McKeon's first novel, Solace, was a work of quiet beauty that won the Irish Book of the Year Award. Here we go back to Ireland in the late 1990s where Catherine, a student of literature, embarks on an intense friendship with James, an artist in the making. I don't want to give anything away, but one of the joys of this novel is the unpredictable direction it takes and I read it in one sitting in a state of continual surprise. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink * The Bookseller * The extraordinary precision in the prose serves as a perfect counterpoint to the psychic chaos that Tender so hauntingly evokes. A coming-of-age drama edges into the sinister as a longed-for consummation becomes prelude to an obsession that will alter several lives. Tender combines the urge to escape the ordinary of Brideshead Revisited with the tormented devotion of McEwan's Enduring Love. McKeon's book is chilling, gorgeous, and profoundly insightful into the very human urge to wreck oneself on the shoals of a great ambition -- Matthew Thomas, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES Tender charts the marshy territory of friendship, obsession and love, and offers no easy path. . . richly nuanced and utterly absorbing * Guardian * McKeon is a superb and sophisticated writer, who captures the barely articulable feelings between young people on the brink of adulthood -- Fiona Wilson * The Times * Tender is the best Irish novel I've read since The Spinning Heart, a work rich with wisdom, truth and beauty. . . I can scarcely think of higher praise than to say that Belinda McKeon could be our Anne Tyler. There is simply not a false note anywhere in Tender -- John Boyne * Irish Times * Student life and coming-of-age in Ireland in the late 1990s are adroitly captured in all their drunken glory, but it is the couple's relationship that comes alive as McKeon traces, with intense subtlety and humaneness, the causes and patterns of infatuation * Sunday Times * An elegant exploration of a friendship turned sour. . . [this] carefully constructed tale of loss and betrayal thrums with sadness, danger and the dizzying desire to possess * Financial Times * A devastating portrait of a friendship and a pitch-perfect encapsulation of youthful obsession and self-delusion. -- Anna Carey, Books to Pack This Summer * Irish Times * Belinda McKeon writes like a dream, and TENDER proves that she belongs among the most revered novelists in the English language -- Heidi Julavitz, author of THE FOLDED CLOCK McKeon. . .captures what it is like to be young in Dublin with grace, subtlety and sympathy. She makes her characters both alluring and complex, and indeed dangerous, too -- Colm Toibin One of the most exquisite endings I've read in some time. . . [this] moving novel suggests that while love may not be undying, try as we might, it is uncontrollable * NPR * Stunning. . a profoundly moving, deeply disturbing examination of the nature of love and relationships, of friendship and loss, of obsession and the psychic violence of love, a book which surprises at every turn. . With this careful attention to craft, and her subtle interweaving of the larger world into the almost claustrophobic intimacy of the central relationship, McKeon has created a powerful coming of age story, wrapped within a surprising story of love, one which rings painfully true -- Robert Wiersema * Toronto Star * McKeon regards the characters in her keenly wrought love story-for all their flaws and fragility - with insight, sensitivity, and a compassion that proves contagious * Kirkus *
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About Belinda McKeon

Belinda McKeon's first novel, Solace, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Sunday Independent Best Newcomer Award and was named Bord Gais Energy Irish Book of the Year in 2011, as well as being shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Her essays and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, the Paris Review, the Guardian and elsewhere. She grew up in rural Ireland and now lives in New York, where she teaches at Rutgers University. Tender is her second novel.
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Rating details

1,589 ratings
3.59 out of 5 stars
5 20% (317)
4 37% (593)
3 28% (447)
2 11% (169)
1 4% (63)
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