Tuesday, June 14, 2011

REVIEW: Ghost Light, by Joseph O'Connor

Ghost Light, by Joseph O'Connor. Published 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Fiction.

Ghost Light is an enjoyable and somewhat experimental novel about the love affair between Maire O'Neil, née Molly Allgood, an Irish stage actress of the early 20th century and the playwright J.M. Synge. Although the two apparently did have a relationship, this story is a highly fictionalized account which moves back and forth through time from the early days of their affair through Maire's death years and years later as a faded and solitary alcoholic.

I say the book is somewhat experimental because as it shifts in time it also shifts in perspective, moving from a standard third-person to an interior monologue and back out again. I had a little trouble following the shifts at first but soon found myself deeply engrossed in the story; in other words, it was a slow read for me but one that I found very satisfying in the end. O'Connor tells a very lyrical and sad story between two people who seem both deeply dysfunctional and perfect for each other, but Maire's life doesn't end with the end of her relationship with Synge. O'Connor gives us hints that she finds some happiness before her life enters its final descent into obscurity.

I think of Ghost Light as another one of those intellectual beach reads. It's very Irish, and people who like Irish literature and the literature of the stage will really enjoy it. I liked the scenery of the theatrical world with its colorful characters and shenanigans and the details of time and place that O'Connor uses to enrich the story. I found it engaging but it can also be a little confusing, which is why I suggest taking it slow. Lit fic for a summer's day, Ghost Light is a fine entertainment of a book.

I read this book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2011.

Rating: BACKLIST

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

10 comments:

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Sometimes I read a book and because of its complexities get nothing out of it. However, I love the way you seem to get the most important thing out of every novel you read. Thanks Marie for this wonderful review.

Aside: What is so unique about Irish Literature? and how do I spot one? Is it by the author's name, his setting or what? Thanks

JoAnn said...

I love your term 'intellectual beach read'! This sounds interesting.

bermudaonion said...

I love the setting, but I'm not sure the book is for me. The shifts in perspective would probably bug me.

reviewsbylola said...

I first read a review for this one yesterday and it really intrigued me. Now your review has convinced me to give it a shot.

Zibilee said...

I am torn. While I love Irish books, I sometimes have trouble with experimental writing and knowing that I would have to go so slow might be a bit daunting for me. I am glad that you ultimately enjoyed it though and will have to consider it further. Great review, Marie!

Pam said...

I just read about this book on my local library's book blog. It sounded good and I added it to my tbr list. Glad to know that you enjoyed it as well.

Carrie said...

Ireland and the theater - two of my first loves. This one definitely goes on the to-read list!

Sandra said...

This sounds very good to me. I like a slow read and interior monologue myself. I haven't read this author and am looking for good recommendations of Irish lit so I'll try him. I've read two Josephine Hart books and tried Delaney's The Matchmaker of Kilmare for the Irish Challenge. I was not keen on the latter and don't know if I'll finish it. But Hart is very good and I will be reading more of her. Thanks for reviewing this and bringing it to my attention.

Marie said...

Nana, Irish literature is just literature by Irish writers or about Ireland. That's all! It's the author or the setting.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Thanks Marie... similar to the way I define African Literature.