Saturday, April 16, 2011

One City, One Book: Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor

This year's One City One Book is Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor: an imagining of the true life romance between the playwright JM Synge and actress Maire O'Neill, whose real name was Molly Allgood.  The story alternates between Edwardian Dublin and the early years of the Abbey Theatre, and 1950s London when Molly Allgood was living in much reduced circumstances.  Synge & Allgood were different religions and from wildly diverse parts of Dublin, he from Glengeary and she from the inner city.  O'Connor writes beautifully, as always, and thanks to his regular radio column on Drive Time, it's easy to hear his voice as you read.  While I was reading it this week, I turned on the radio before bed and discovered that Ghost Light was also the book on one, so I listened to the author read for a while instead of reading myself.  My knowledge of Synge before this book was mostly of having seen and not liked The Playboy of the Western World, when I was at school.  He takes licence with the actual truth, like all good writers, but it only makes the story better.  A good portion of the book is set in Wicklow but I won't spoil it further by explaining why. My favourite scene is when Molly brings Synge home to meet her family - it's written like a play and I cringed with every social faux pas, on both sides.  It's worth every minute of this time to read this book, but some readers might find it annoying that the time flips forward and back, and also from Molly's imagination to her present to her memories.  And if you don't want to buy it, don't forget the library.



I love reading books set in my home city, and it's given me an idea to review other books set in Dublin. We'll all be participating in this series and it will certainly feature Strumpet City, Ulysses,and The Commitments amongst others.  If anyone has a suggestion of other books, especially ones that are not as well known, please send us an email or comment here.

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