My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book has the (dubious) distinction of being the first novel I’d ever seen a book trailer for.
I had no idea how fitting that would be. Because this book was actually more of a movie. Albeit a movie without the visual shorthand a filmmaker can use to expand upon the character development.
It seemed like it had the potential for a fun light read. But this was almost too light a read. I had the feeling of a stone skipping across a pond, touching down lightly on this character or that but not really sinking under the surface.
Everything that happened in the book was too improbable and seemed like the author was too unfocused to really bring actual detail.
1. The Main Character
This girl is a cypher. We know a few things about her, but we never really know who she is apart from the events that have happened to her. She doesn’t exist outside of them.
2. The Mechanism
Kate (the ‘main character’) is a clothing designer whose latest line fails, her boyfriend dumps her for a model and her mother dies of cancer. So she packs up and goes to Ireland. She hitchhikes to the West Country and is eventually given a ride by a kindly Traveler in a colourful wagon. He drops her off in Glenmara because they’re having some kind of festival and the road just stops there. Okay. That’s a nice mechanism for a short story written by a 14 year old. Wouldn’t it have been more logical to have this designer travel to the West Country to research handmade Irish lace in person? She’s a designer. She’s Irish. That all makes more sense than falling aimlessly into the small town.
3. Circus Irish
I’m not Irish. I do count actual Irish people from Ireland among my dear friends however. And this book falls under the category of being the type of book about Ireland that people want to see to reinforce their comfortable notions. For all that Edna O’Brien is mentioned about a dozen times there is little of O’Brien’s realism here. Instead we have the cast of characters of an Irish Lifetime Movie. What gets me is that there is little attention to true detail. For instance, why is the lead proponent of the Gaelic language a man called JOHN? Wouldn’t he be SEAN?! Every pro-Gaelic person I’ve known (at least a dozen) has insisted upon using their Gaelic name. If they were given an English one at birth, they’ve adopted the Gaelic version instead.
All in all this novel just felt like someone went ahead and published the notes and sketches meant for a deeper book with real connective tissue. No wonder it needed a trailer.