Friday, 17 September 2010
Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor
I have Star of the Sea at home but when I read the review of Ghost Light over at Reading Matters I decided to make this my first foray into Joseph O’Connor’s writing.
The novel follows Molly Allgood a once acclaimed star of the Irish stage who was engaged to the Irish playwright John Synge at the time of his death. Although these were real characters, the story has taken many liberties with the facts so I read this as I would a fictional book (which I believe is the intent).
Molly in the present is in a sorry state. She is an alcoholic, living in poverty in London and she dwells on her love affair with Synge and her fall from grace. The novel gives flashbacks to her time with Synge which is written in a way that provides flashes of bitter-sweet moments which mean so much to Molly rather than a straightforward dialogue. Couple this with the 2nd person narrative and this becomes difficult book to get into. One of the chapters is written in the form of a letter to a newspaper from a man complaining about an Irish drunk he saw in central London who the reader knows is Molly, and another chapter is written in the form of a humours Irish play.
Despite humour radiating sometimes from Molly, this book as a general atmosphere of despair and sadness especially when this is contrasted to her younger days as a young women in Dublin with her whole life ahead of her. The character of Synge himself is seen through Molly's eyes and we see a man who is ill, dying, aloof, capable of extreme tenderness and yet evades the question of marriage. The parts where his staunchly religious family deny her access to her funeral and make her 'sell' his letters to them are truly heartbreaking and yet Molly has survived.
I read this book quite slowly and despite being under 300 pages it took me much longer to read than I normally do but it is superbly written and I liked where the book took me.
Would I recommend it? This is not a fast paced plot based book and not what I would describe as an 'easy' read, but if you want to read a beautifully written book at a measured pace then I would highly recommend this.
Posted by Jess