Evenings and Weekends

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Pub Date 9 May 2024 | Archive Date Not set
4th Estate | Fourth Estate





Summer in London stops for no-one. Not the half-naked boozers, stoners, and cruisers, the hen parties glugging from bejewelled bottles, the drag queens puffing on hurried fags. It’s June 2019, and everyone has converged on the city’s parks, beer gardens and street corners to revel in the collective joys of being alive.

Everyone but Maggie. She’s 30, pregnant and broke. Faced with moving back to the town she fought to escape, she’s wondering if having a baby with boyfriend Ed will be the last spontaneous act of her life. Ed, meanwhile, is trying to run from his past with Maggie’s best friend Phil and harbouring secret dreams of his own.

Phil hates his office job and is living for the weekend, while falling for his housemate, Keith. But there’s a problem: Keith has a boyfriend and there might not be room for three people in the relationship. Then there’s Rosaleen, Phil’s mother, who’s tired of feeling like a side character in her own life. She’s just been diagnosed with cancer and is travelling to London to tell Phil, if she can ever get hold of him.

As Saturday night approaches, all their lives are set to change forever. It’s the hottest summer on record and the weekend is about to begin…




Advance Praise

‘A love letter to cities and people and heartbreaks. It made me cry’ Eileen Myles

‘Astonishing. A magnificent read’ Russell Tovey

‘Sexy, clever and shockingly alive. I couldn’t put it down. I have never read a book that captures what London feels like to young people quite so compellingly’ Tomasz Jedrowski, author of Swimming in the Dark

'A bit like the book version of a Richard Curtis film but with more sex' GQ

'A novel brimming with life, confronting the difficult and ugly with a fresh and charming levity' Nicola Dinan, author of Bellies

'A stunning debut guaranteed to be one of the books of the summer' Hero

'I was entirely consumed by it. McKenna's characters are so deeply truthful that I'm half-convinced I was there too, on that hot, sweaty weekend in 2019’ Kate Young, author of Experienced

'Full of life and rings with passion and hope. A brilliant study of the sins of modern Britain and the energy of contemporary London' Soula Emmanuel, author of Wild Geese

'One of the most promising spoken word artists in the country, who avoids misty-eyed accounts of society and instead cuts through with brilliant observational political commentary' Irish Times

‘A love letter to cities and people and heartbreaks. It made me cry’ Eileen Myles

‘Astonishing. A magnificent read’ Russell Tovey

‘Sexy, clever and shockingly alive. I couldn’t put it down. I have...

Available Editions

ISBN 9780008604196
PRICE £8.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 23 members

Featured Reviews


Evenings & Weekends is a novel centred around a group of people who are all intertwined in some way to the backdrop of the hottest summer on record in London 2019. This is a character-driven novel with very little plot. Every character felt completely realistic, and the different issues they were working through covered some really important topics that were all well executed. I also think the book captured the true, messy reality of life in London. I would say there were some characters introduced that didn’t bring much to the book and made it confusing to keep track of everyone. I also don’t agree with the comparison to Sally Rooney; I don’t find this similar at all. Overall, a great read with endearing characters and so well crafted! Big thanks to 4th Estate & NetGalley for an eARC.

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It was really quite beautiful a read. So incredibly human in a way it sometimes feels only the Irish writers can truly capture.

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A whale has lost its way and has swam up the Thames ( remember that news in 2006?) and the news about attempts to free the whale during a scorching London summer create a back drop and time line for a novel about a group of friends, "escapees" from Basildon ( a dull "new" town in Essex) who now live in London and who also seem to be losing their bearings and need to be find freedom from their inner demons.

Ed and Maggie, a "solid" couple since sixth form 10 years ago live in a damp flat in Hackney. Maggie wanted to be an artist but couldn't afford to live whilst waiting to be discovered and has worked in a cafe since graduation but she still wants to piant and dance at raves and reclaim her sense of fun. Ed has tried teaching and is now a bike courier. Ed doesn't know who or what he is and is carrying a lot of shame and guilt about secrets in his life and is struggling under the pressure. Maggie is pregnant ( unplanned) and their only option seems to be a move back to cheaper Basildon where they will have family support but both are totally dreading the move. Maggie's best friend since childhood, Phil resides in a communal living warehouse and is sleeping with a fellow resident, who is in a committed but non monogamous relationship. Phil struggles with the abuse he endured in the past as a young gay man and how it has impacted the way he behaves in relationships. Phil's brother, Callum, a drug dealer, is Ed's best friend and their mother, Rosheen, an earlier escapee to London from Ireland has cancer and doesn't know how to tell Phil. The secret thoughts, feelings and experiences of the group are all slowly revealed in this epic saga and come to a head after a solistice house party.

I think that this is a fantastic debut novel. It certainly kept me turning the page for the most part. I think it was a little bloated in parts and could have done with some pruning as some storylines didn't really progress but it was interesting to follow the characters on hot evenings and weekends all the same.

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Absolutely brilliant. The comparisons to Zadie Smith are, for once, not overdone. Not since White Teeth have I read a better novel about London, it’s millions of contradictions, its beauty and horrors. Great stuff.

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I couldn't put down Evenings and Weekends, I loved the use of the infamous Thames Whale to as a central point in which to explore the lives of these East Londoners - brilliant character exploration, each person was interesting in their own right and I never found myself wanting to return to another persons story more than the others. Recommend to readers who love character heavy novels exploring queer relationships, claustrophobic London summers and poignant Irish writing.

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Evenings and Weekends is a novel mostly spanning a weekend in London and Basildon, as an interconnected group of characters across two generations face up to the messiness of life. Maggie is pregnant and on the cusp of moving back to Basildon from London, but she doesn't want to leave, and her boyfriend Ed seems distracted. Her best friend Phil is falling for his housemate Keith, but Keith's in another relationship and Phil doesn't want to upset the current balance. Phil's mum Rosaleen has a cancer diagnosis she wants to share with her son, but doesn't know how, and Phil's brother is soon to get married, but keeps disappearing. And there's a whale stuck in the Thames.

This is the kind of kaleidoscopic literary fiction novel in which there's not a huge amount of plot, but there is a lot of character moments of crisis and change, and you can get deep into the world of the interconnected characters. At first, it seemed that the "normal" life of Maggie and Ed wasn't very interesting, but then it became apparent how much of an act this was. Other characters, particularly Phil and Rosaleen, have engrossing narratives around being haunted by their past and looking towards who they are now and how they relate to other people. There's a lot of supporting characters too, who sometimes get a POV moment, and though this often doesn't work in books, in Evenings and Weekends it did feel like it added colour to the tapestry, so to speak.

I liked how there was a lot about queerness underpinning the novel, and various characters' relationships with queerness, particularly in a London millennial way, but also relating to class and growing up. The messiness of the characters' lives felt very real and their complex experiences of love and sex brought a lot to the book, particularly by the ending. It was refreshing to have a novel explore some of these realities, alongside a great sense of London atmosphere, and the title is reflected in the way that the book is all about the times outside of work, the human moments, rather than another novel about millennials hating their jobs.

The 'whale stuck in the Thames and a marine biologist who looks like Princess Diana' subplot was a great element, but I did wish that it felt like it had an actual conclusion or connected with the characters by the end. Weirdly for a literary fiction novel without much plot, I feel like it could have a sequel, which explores further the characters' decisions, maybe with a time jump to make them older and have different experiences.

Evenings and Weekends is a novel about not wanting to give up who you could be, that potential for excitement and fun and love, and it is also an exploration of London and small-towns, and the complexities of what futures you could have as a queer person. The range of points of view through the narrative will be divisive, but I didn't lose track of how anyone was and enjoyed the little insights you got from a sudden change to a supporting characters' POV.

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This is the story of several intertwined lives of several people in (and around) London, mostly over one record breakingly hot weekend in 2019. I don’t know where to start with my review but to say that I loved this book that was carefully crafted and so cleverly written that I couldn’t tell you a character that I always liked or disliked not could I say who was the ‘main’ voice. The cultural references were used only when needed (which I was glad of because I can find them clunky and also worry that they put a book in a zeitgeist that will only be relevant for a limited time). I read this book (an ARC from NetGalley with no obligation to review) in March when housebound with COVID and I felt the summer vibes when reading this. the story weaves between the characters seamlessly (I also worried that I’d find it hard to track with so many names but that wasn’t an issue at all). This is my current favourite read of 2024- 5 stars, not like anything I’ve read lately!

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What an incredible debut novel - it truly brings London to life in such a brilliant, brutal and accurate way. I loved the writing and the way that intimacy and friendship is explored is so fantastic. I'll certainly be recommending to all my friends!

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It was easy to feel like I was in this novel, from the relatable setting to the characters. It was so easy to visualise and understand the characters.

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A fantastic debut, extremely well written and evocative of a very particular time and place in London. I loved the different POV’s - it was great to see the same event through different people’s eye and framed through their experience of the world.

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Evenings & Weekends takes place over a scorchingly hot weekend in London 2019. We meet a group of young millennials who are attending a solstice party. Maggie, 30-years-old and pregnant, is confronted with an inevitable future in the hometown which she previously contended with. She begins to question whether or not her pregnancy will be her final act of spontaneity. Ed, a bike courier, is eagerly anticipating the day he is able to settle down with Maggie as a family unit. However, little does Maggie know, Ed’s got a mysterious past with her best friend, a man named Phil. Phil is falling deeply in love with his roommate, Keith, while also working in an office, a job he detests with passion. We also have the pleasure of being introduced to Rosaleen, Phil’s mother, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She is travelling all the way down to London to tell her son this devastating news in-person. The characters must confront their pasts and future desires, and their lives may change forever.

Evenings & Weekends is one of the most beautifully written novels I have ever read, I am simply astonished that it’s a debut. The book swept me off of my feet and wouldn’t put me down until I had finished it!

I guarantee that you will fall in love with this novel, especially if you’re into books that do not necessarily have a plot, but you get to spend time with the characters, watching as they make a series of good and bad decisions. McKenna portrays the characters in such a beautiful and realistic manner. The characters all have flaws and are well-rounded, they felt very vivid to me. They all had shifting dynamics, both with themselves and to each other, it almost felt as though I too were growing with the characters throughout the duration of the novel. I loved how intrinsically linked the characters were, and the way they all came together, and the connections they shared. Phil’s relationships, in particular, brought an overarching theme of delicacy to the novel, but by far the most powerful of the characters is Rosaleen, and the relationship she shares with herself. She holds a place in my heart. McKenna, using the character of Rosaleen, writes about memory, the ways we can recount and try to preserve them, and how important memories are in our identities. This was the real highlight of the book for me.

Novels that are set over the course of a period of time are a great concept, and Evenings & Weekends, a book which I found nail-bitingly tense to read at times, is most definitely no exception. I loved how each of the chapters focuses on a single character’s perspective. It helped maintain the novel’s fresh and interesting narrative, while also allowing the story to be told from an array of views and different sets of eyes. The story didn’t feel at all limited. McKenna allows the reader to a see fuller picture of the world he is trying to unveil. McKenna also brings the novel to a conclusion that’s both emotional and poignant, and this makes the novel a total pleasure to read.

Evenings & Weekends reads much like as though it is a love letter to life, in all of its messy and unpredictable forms. If you are a fan of authors such as Coco Mellors and Sally Rooney, then I would highly suggest you add this to your never-ending TBR list.

Thank you to NetGalley, 4th Estate, and Oisin McKenna for the wonderful ARC in exchange for an honest review. I cannot wait to see what McKenna does in the future!

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being a left leaning, queer late twenties human being in the modern age is such a unique experience not because these labels are inherently rare but because there is still space to be surprised. mckenna weaves issues like irish/uk politics and climate change to illustrate how pertinent the millennial malaise is. with so many world issues outside of the cast of characters' control, it's easy to see why any one character wouldn't want to put their heart on the line. i felt like i knew what each character's beliefs and intentions were by the end which doesn't happen often when there are so many people to keep track of. however, this was a nice surprise. i really just wanted each person to choose happiness and i got that here without repercussion. instead, kindness prevailed.

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