'It's always a bad idea to go online and book a flight when you've had too much wine. You never know where you might end up.'
This was how Michael Harding found himself in a strange flat in Bucharest in January 2015, which set the tone for the rest of the year.
After a stint in the Gaiety Theatre production of The Field, Harding returned to the tranquil hills above Lough Allen and began to imagine what his little cottage might look like if he got a few builders to tear a hole in the wall to add on another room. Surely an extension would give him a renewed sense of purpose in life, as he approached old age.
But as the walls of his home crumbled, so too did his mental health, and he fell, once again, into depression -- that great darkness where life feels like nothing more than a waste of time.
And yet, it is in that great darkness that we discover what really makes us human.
A compelling memoir. Absorbing and graced with a deceptive lightness of touch ... Harding writes like an angel — Sunday Times on Hanging with the Elephant
An edifying journey of self-discovery — Irish Mail on Sunday on Hanging with the Elephant
Wonderful ... Like many people who have achieved a great deal, [Harding] cannot recognise his triumphs. This book, like its predecessor, is one of them — John Boyne, Irish Times on Hanging with the Elephant
Harding is a self-deprecating and winsome writer whose bittersweet musings on middle-age, loneliness and the search for spiritual enlightenment in post-Catholic Ireland are leavened by an incredibly dry and unforced wit. However, it's the sections in which Harding focuses on his relationship with his mother... that Hanging with the Elephant reaches lump-in-throat-inducing levels of poignancy — Metro Herald on Hanging with the Elephant
Often funny, occasionally disturbing and not without its moments of deep sadness, Harding has peeled back his soul and held it out on the palm of his hand for all to see — Christine Dwyer Hickey on Hanging with the Elephant
It's rare for a memoir to demand such intense emotional involvement, and rarer still for it to be so fully rewarded — Sunday Times on Staring at Lakes
I read this book in one sitting ... it held me and wouldn't let go — Mary McEvoy, Irish Independent on Staring at Lakes
This memoir grabs you from the outset and holds you right to the end. Harding traverses the human soul and excavates its deepest secrets. His language sings. Extraordinary — Deirdre Purcell on Staring at Lakes
Hilarious, and tender, and mad, and harrowing, and wistful, and always beautifully written. A wonderful book — Kevin Barry on Staring at Lakes
Michael Harding is no ordinary man or memoirist ... a book that champions the kindness (or at least company) of strangers as essential for that elusive state known as happiness — RTE Guide