Brian's Novel - 'Roman Song'

Charles Patrick......
Having just finished re-reading Brian’s second novel, “Roman Song”, this seemed like as good a time as any to put my thoughts on the book down in writing. 

“Roman Song” is a novel about and for lonely people and the barriers they erect, whether consciously or otherwise, to prevent themselves from being hurt by life.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a story of love’s triumph over loneliness and the discovery of new or lost love, despite all the hurdles that life can throw up in its path. 

Although for many readers, the lives of Fergal and Alfredo will belong to another alien world, their stories are instantly recognisable and believable.   We can share their moments of laughter and joy, partially at least because the mistakes they make along the way are the kinds of mistakes we are all prone to make.  Where “Roman Song” proves to be such an uplifting read is that in the novel, mistakes can be put right, past errors of judgement can be resolved, regardless of the number of years that have gone by.   Talents are not left wasted and ignored because of the love and recognition of friends.  Whereas over the period of a lifetime many people’s lives can become littered with recollections of events and scenarios leading to a “what if” or “if only”, “Roman Song” moves on from the broken, fragmented lives of Fergal’s family in a grey, damp Belfast to the light and sunshine of Rome where dreams can and do come true.   Perhaps the wisest comment in the book comes from Brian’s Father Mac character on telling Fergal “it’s not who you love that matters…it’s how you love”.   This is a lesson that both Fergal and Alfredo need to learn in their own ways before they can find true happiness. 

If I had thought that reading the book for a second time would be less enjoyable, then I have to admit that the opposite has proved to be true.  I have never known any book move me as much as “Roman Song” – not even Brian’s first novel.  It is a rare gift indeed to be able to involve your reader to the extent that you can be laughing one moment, then dabbing your eyes again just a little later.  I can only assume that Brian has secretly bought numerous stocks and shares in Kleenex!  I can’t wait for the next instalment –always assuming there is more to come? 

Just one final request;- if there is ever likely to be a TV or film production of these stories, the part of Angela just has to be played by Julie Walters – she would bring just the right mix of tragedy and comedy to fully animate this character.  “Jesus, is the whole world…gay?”  Indeed! 

James Sweetman....

I’ve just finished reading Brian’s second book Roman Song and I was compelled to drop a short mail to say well done on another great read.

I thought it was a beautifully written and paced story, with great characters. I read the first book the Arrival of Fergal Flynn which was great, but I think Roman Song tops it. I suppose I’m a sucker for a romantic novel and that is just what Roman Song is. The final few chapters were exceptionally heart warming and brought a tear to my eye. There were some really great turns of phrase and insights, like ‘it is not who you love but how you love that matters’ that really stood out for me.

So keep up the writing and I’d love there to be a third novel in the series. Wishing you continued success in all your endeavours.  Kind regards, James

Tracey Prideaux......
I have just finished reading Brian's Roman Song, and really enjoyed it! Made me laugh and cry! Fergal's like an old friend now!  Please pass on my best wishes to Brian, and roll on the next book!  With regards, Tracey

Margaret, Northern Ireland.....
I have just finished this brilliant novel of Fergal now in Rome where he has been more or less adopted by his Italian family. They show so much empathy and warmth towards the young Fergal which he needs and deserves so much. At times I felt overwhelmed, as Fergal reflects back to his past life in Belfast. It was lovely to see how Fergal's 'self-esteem' after being so low was beginning to rise and he was beginning to believe in himself.

I believe many others reading this book will identify with the suffering and harassment many gay people face in their every day life. I hope this story helps others to believe in themselves and to value who they are.

Looking forward to Fergal becoming a 'huge' success - soon!

Lorraine Liberson, Australia........
Well I have just spent the last two weeks of my life with Fergal Flynn!   What great novels! Since I live with a dedicated "Brian supporter and fan" - my mother, Julia Bellamy - I am kept up-to-date with all Brian's music and literary news and achievements. 

About 2 weeks ago I fell ill, which was actually a blessing in disguise as I couldn't do anything but read.  I can tell you, I haven't read a novel in 10 years - so this was an extraordinary event for me.   I quickly became immersed in the life of Fergal Flynn ('The Arrival of FF') and carried away with the story.   Brian has created and described the characters so honestly and realistically that I came to love Father Mac and Granny Noreen and really felt I was living in West Belfast with all its troubles and tension.  On finishing the book I cried and marvelled in the honesty of Brian's writing in describing Fergal's thoughts and emotions throughout the story.  It made me realise how much, even I, was holding onto, inside myself, that I had never expressed, and I am sure it’s the same for most of us.   The last line of that book, by the way, was just perfect!

Well obviously, I had to know how Fergal got on in Rome, so without a break I was into 'Roman Song'!  Again I was gripped by the story the whole way through, annoyed when I had to stop for "work!#@*", etc.  Again the characters were wonderful, and again, I really felt like I was in Rome living with all the characters, particularly Alfredo.  The way each character affected the life of the other was so uplifting.   Sometimes when you feel a burden to people, it is easy to forget how much we contribute to each others' lives.

So you can see both books have really moved me and now of course, I am waiting for No. 3 to find out how Fergal progresses into stardom - hint, hint!  Yes, tell Brian - WE WANT MORE!  I know he is "full-on" (Aussie expression) with the Eurovision Song Contest at the moment.  Julia and I are feverishly trying to find out how we can tune in to the show, over here in OZ.  I hope there is some satellite connection we can use.  

Meanwhile, please pass on my praise and warmest wishes to Brian.  He so deserves to do well and receive acknowledgement for his music and writing, AND for him as a person.   His honesty is humbling. Much Love, Lorraine.  P.S.  We look forward to another OZ tour!

Julia Bellamy, Sydney, Australia - November 2005....

Barely a year after 'Fergal''s release, 'Roman Song' is already here. I must admit I was slightly apprehensive about this sequel. I wondered seriously how Brian could pull it off again after the huge emotional impact of 'Fergal', the effects of which are only just beginning to fade gently into the past.  I needn't have worried, of course.  I hadn't taken into account Brian's spontaneous talent as an artist to slip from humour to grief within the space of minutes and hold his audience from the moment he arrives to months after his departure, whether he's performing live on stage or with the written word.

From the first page, I was captivated, as the scene was set. In one short flight from Belfast to Rome, Fergal leaves his past life of emotional - and often physical - pain, torment and rejection and enters this new life style of Italian warmth, music, food and real communication. Emotional as this part of the journey is, to me it feels less perturbing than previously, because Fergal is now surrounded by a group of people who appreciate his talents and understand and accept him for who he really is. 

Roman Song' is a beautiful story - written with Brian's usual sensitive touch, as he introduces us to a group of lovely individuals, each searching for the truth. These are people you would like to know and have around you, because they're genuine. Certainly, they can be annoying and frustrating at times - including Fergal! - but you can't help loving them for their weaknesses as well as admiring them for their strengths - and isn't that what life is all about? 

This is such a well-structured story in my opinion. The transition from the starkness and 'troubled times' of Belfast to the more relaxed warmth of Rome and the opposing life styles, is smoothly accomplished without disconnecting from previous characters: Angela who now begins her own journey to freedom from the suppression of the past: and dear Father Mac who is still travelling his own rough passage and battling his own demons, though you know he will finally make it through, supported as he is by so much love and respect from all those involved in his life.  The new characters fit in perfectly and complement all those who have gone before.  It's revealing to have the different views and the interaction of the two older men in Brendan and Alfredo, running parallel with the newly-formed young and sensitive relationship of Fergal and Fintan.  Arianna's maternal support and Amelia's 'phantom' influence expressed via descriptions of her from Fintan and Brendan, all add further dimensions to the bonds that hold together this disparate group in Rome.

To sum up, some books entertain by making you laugh and raising your spirits on a bad day; others hit deeper, making you stop in your tracks, think, and do some soul-searching. "Fergal' and 'Roman Song' achieve all these effects for me. There are too many humorous, touching and moving moments to mention them individually, but after reading 'Roman Song,' I personally recognised a subtle shift in my views on some areas of life; that I'd learned something new and important about other human beings and felt bigger and better because of it.  'Roman Song' is a beautiful, inspiring and enriching book.

Personally, I hope Brian doesn't end Fergal's journey at this point. These great people seem to have more to say and I hope they'll keep in touch a while longer.

Thank you Brian for this beautiful book - you are surely one of the best descriptive writers around.  Regards Julia

Joanne Jones, Chester.....
I was so excited to receive my copy of ' Roman Song'...Last year when Fergal first came into my life I'd managed to complete the wonderful journey and 303 pages in just 24 hours!! It was like an addiction! This year I knew things would be different...I have a 7 week old baby boy, {whom we coincidently called Flynn!}, lots of nappies to change and washing to do!, but still I set about my reunion with Fergal. It was so good to catch up and dissolve into his beautiful new world in Rome.

One by one I was introduced to the wonderful new characters in such careful sensitive detail, learning the very secrets of their souls, Brian made me care about the characters like they were my new good friends! Page by page, day by day, still like an addiction, my world was full of Fergal {and of course being a new mum!!!}

With all the twists and turns of fate in this story it was obvious that Brian would reach the emotions....and he did!! Excitement, fear, frustration, anger and love all brought about with a perfect balance of romance and realism.... page 366 inevitably came and I was left with a lovely sense of peace for Fergal, yet at the same time a heavy heart that my journey with him had come to an end.

Catherine Deith......
My weekend took me to Belfast to see my long suffering husband (he's is working there at the moment). The fact that 'Roman Song' was also being released that weekend was just amazing coincidence. (Yeah right....)

In the car to Stranraer I couldn't stop thinking about him. It had been so long - but I knew that by the end of the day I'd be with him again........I'd be reunited with Fergal Flynn.

After safely docking at Belfast, the bookshop beckoned. I could clearly see it from the shelf as I entered Easons. I took one from the back and it was so tempting just to sit down and read.....but I knew I had to wait until I had time to absorb what I was reading.

I felt more relaxed now and the rest of the day was spent doing some Christmas shopping while Tony was at work.   It was early Sunday morning before I finally opened the book and started to read. I only got as far as chapter three before my eyes were wet with tears. I felt so happy and relieved for him. I reluctantly went for breakfast and it wasn't until I was on the ferry home that I got started again. I sat for almost 2 hours completely engrossed in the life of this wonderful young man. The boat could have sank and I don't think I'd have noticed - unless my pages got wet, then I would have been really annoyed.

Back home it was well into the wee small hours when I finished. I was sad that it was the end, but a great and fitting ending it was. Once again Brian sent us on a rollercoaster ride of emotion - not just with Fergal, but with Alfredo too. (or Freddie as his mammy calls him.....) Tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of frustration - yes there were a lot of tears, but also a feeling of satisfaction and towards the end I felt so proud of Fergal. Like The Arrival Of FF, Brian made it all seem so real and I could easily paint pictures in my head of what was happening. Well done Brian Kennedy - you're a star, and I love ya.....x