Reviews

Panenka, by Rónán Hession

awill1122's review

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hopeful reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75

sofiaasia's review

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reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character

3.5

normandie_'s review

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dark emotional informative inspiring reflective relaxing sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

bhawesh_vasnani's review

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hopeful reflective sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.5

akankshamiddya's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful reflective relaxing sad slow-paced

4.75

amortristis's review

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reflective medium-paced

3.0

An easy read – I can see this being studied in secondary schools. But it’s also a difficult read because there isn’t a plot to follow and invest in, just a collection of emotionally stunted characters who refuse to communicate with one another. It’s frustrating. And it makes the talk-therapy dialogue seem even more out of place. There’s this air of reflectiveness that isn’t backed up with real introspection or character growth. It’s surface level sentimentality that goes nowhere. The titular Panenka and the other maladjusted men he’s friends with don’t ever learn to talk about their feelings or take responsibility for their actions, they just wait around until someone (almost always a woman) comes along to take care of them.

While I’m on the topic of sexism I have to talk about Vincent. He makes my skin crawl. There’s a scene towards the end of the book that I’ll outline here:
SpoilerMarie-Thérèse wants to break up with Vincent because she doesn’t love him any more. Vincent twists her words and reframes everything she says. He gets passive aggressive. He weaponsises their son, Arthur, using him to guilt trip her into staying. At the end of the book, Marie-Thérèse seems to have tricked herself into thinking she must still love Vincent, and they and their son go out for a meal like a Happy Family™.
To me, it’s horrific. But I don’t think it’s meant to be read that way. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s deliberately uncomfortable and what’s an unfortunate oversight on the author’s part. I suppose that’s what you get when you’re so preoccupied with the feelings of men that your female characters get utterly sidelined.

Something else that occurred to me while I was reading was how much better this story would have been if it were queer. I mean, yes, I think pretty much every story can be improved by making it queerer, but in this case it almost doesn’t make sense for it not to be queer. Panenka exhibits homosocial tendencies throughout, socialising predominantly with men in all-male spaces.
SpoilerThere’s a scene with him and BABA around the middle of the book which is more intimate and tender than any other.  They talk, and Panenka walks BABA home and carries him to bed. The way he takes him under his wing seems to parallel his burgeoning relationship with Esther – a relationship kept private and unlabelled.
I just think this would have worked well in a story about a man who struggles to connect and stay connected with women, who finds solace with other men once he overcomes his inhibitions.

Enough about what it could have been – what is Panenka? It’s a book full of self-pity and teenage middle-aged angst. It’s a book that wants to talk about men’s mental health but isn’t sure what to say. It’s a book I had high hopes for and was let down by. I’m not going to tell you not to read it, but man... it’s sticking with me for the wrong reasons.

CONTENT WARNINGS: chronic pain (migraines), cancer, depression, guilt, grief, abandonment, cheating, men being generally useless and/or nasty, sexism 

lukakrejsa's review

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reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

ruby_99's review

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

catchingfires's review

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

sjw203's review against another edition

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emotional reflective sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25