Tender by Belinda McKeon


I brought Tender with me on holiday, spurred on by its abstract cover and was sold on it after reading John Boyne’s review of it in the Irish Times.

Tender is the story of two friends, James Flynn and Catherine Reilly. Narrated by Catherine, James was a friend-of-a-friend, who ends up becoming her everything. They are inseparable; in James she has found the friend of a lifetime, and for a while the feeling is reciprocated, but when the honeymoon ends, and James’ attentions are grabbed by other things – other people, other countries, boys – Catherine feels his lack as a form of withdrawal and the book becomes much darker as she spins into obsession, just as James has come out of a bad patch and is happy in his first relationship. And as her obsession grows, it tightens like a vice around the reader as we are inexorably drawn towards disaster.

An exceptionally beautifully written novel that completely nails its backdrop of being a student in Dublin in the 90s, I cannot recommend it highly enough.


You can reserve a copy of Tender on South Dublin Libraries’ website here.


2 thoughts on “Tender by Belinda McKeon

  1. I’d heard a not so good review of this on RTE Radio recently and was put off reading it. Following this review, I’m encouraged to check it out for myself.
    I’ve just discovered Elene Farrente and I’m loving her Neopolitain Novels. The first one, My Brilliant Friend, drew me in. It follows the story of a friendship from childhood in the 60’s to present day. The less brilliant one gets the education and becomes a writer, the other one (the writer’s muse) has an interesting and tragic life. I have to say though that my Book Club didn’t find the first of the quartet quite as inthralling as I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was rather riveted by Tender on holiday, I must say. She’s got a fantastic way with words, and the way the book takes a turn about halfway through is wonderfully chilling. I haven’t read her first book, Solace, yet although I do have it to read. Have you read that?

      People have been raving about he Neapolitan Novels! They’re hugely popular. I shall have to ask around and see if anyone here has read them and can review them for the blog.

      I also find it fascinating that nobody knows who Elena Ferrante is! A rare thing in this day and age!


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