Tuesday 17 January 2017

Fiction: The House on Seaview Road by Alison Walsh

Hachette, €17.99

Justine Carbery

Published 10/10/2016 | 02:30

The House on Seaview Road by Alison Walsh
The House on Seaview Road by Alison Walsh

Set in South County Dublin in 1983, The House on Seaview Road gently lures the reader back to the good old days of Fame and Dixies Midnight Runners with authentic, deftly rendered detail. Having misspent my youth in a similar time and place, I slipped right back into those heady days of hanging out on the beach, trying to act cool and falling in love with the bad boy. However, the darker underbelly of those not-so-innocent bygone days is gradually revealed as the story of the Stephenson family unfolds.

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Marie and Grainne Stephenson's mother passed away, leaving the girl's father bereft and remote, and Marie struggling to fulfil her mother's dying wish that she take care of her younger flightier sister. Responsible Marie watches with concern as the naïve Grainne falls in with an older crowd, but events and teenage hormones overtake them both, until one night at a school dance, something happens which will impact their lives forever and Marie realises that not all promises can be kept.

Whereas some popular fiction writers tend to tie up all loose ends in happy little knots, Walsh is not afraid to expose the darker side of Irish society.

She evokes a time when the church retained its stranglehold on national behaviour and mores, and cover-ups and secrecy were the order of the day. The Stephenson girls grow from carefree adolescents to responsible adults in this murky environment and have to live with the consequences of their youthful actions.

A humane and credible story, as relevant today as in 1983, The House on Seaview Road casts a glance at a bygone era, the complexities of growing up and managing family relationships in easy accessible prose. A good read for fans of Joanna Trollope.

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