Adult depression remains hard to comprehend for the many who continue to feel that whoever is suffering from this complaint should simply snap out of it and get on with life. The natural narcissism of the young in particular can make it additionally hard for them to realise that their very presence may still not be enough for the adults in their lives going through a really bad time. So Roddy Doyle is to be applauded for bringing this topic into the centre of a story where many recently unemployed parents and relatives are shown as suffering from serious depression in the wake of the recent Irish recession. But this is more a fable than a story, with the national state of misery hanging over Dublin represented as a hideous cloud-shaped black dog seeping into people’s houses and spreading despair.
Some children finally decide to take this monster on, aided by talking animals and a friendly junior vampire. But their chief weapon, whereby they cause the dog to diminish every time they shout out the word ‘Brilliant,’ soon becomes sadly repetitive. A prolonged midnight chase though Dublin which finally destroys the dog altogether also goes on far too long. There are still some choice moments, but while Doyle’s message cannot be faulted the means of delivery he uses are too facile to inspire belief or even by the end very much interest. Starting out as a short story written for the St Patrick’s Festival in 2011, Brilliant never quite manages to turn into a viable novel, let along one as accomplished as this writer’s other stories.