Monday 16 September 2019

Grief, secrets and surprises

Fiction: The Birthday Party

Roisin Meaney

Hachette Ireland, €13.99

The Birthday Party
The Birthday Party

Margaret Madden

We return to the island of Roone and re-visit our favourite characters - along with some new ones - in Meaney's 16th novel, The Birthday Party. The summer season is just kicking off and Laura is preparing for a fully-booked B&B and a visit from her half-sister, Tilly.

En route from Australia, Tilly is bursting with excitement as she has not seen her long-distance boyfriend, Adam, for months and has something to ask him. "She adored the summery buzz of the place, with long generous daylight hours, and coaches and minibuses driving off the ferry each morning with a new group of day-trippers… music spilling from pubs each evening. The island was pulsing with life."

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Eve and Imelda are not feeling the summer spirit. Both grieving the loss of Hugh, the two have fallen out and their pain is raw.

Imelda receives a surprise visitor and must bury her grief long enough to be hospitable. Eve harbours a secret that she has only shared with an unimpressed Laura.

Meanwhile, Laura's stepmother arrives on the island with no intention of returning to Dublin. As the residents of Roone prepare for hotel owner Henry Manning's 70th birthday celebrations, the atmosphere is far from jovial.

Less uplifting than previous Roone novels, this still encompasses the island environment and oozes with culinary delights.

Be prepared to be permanently hungry whilst reading: "They'd eaten a starter of dates stuffed with feta and wrapped with bacon [followed by] homemade pizza and a salad of lettuce, spinach and rocket from Gavin's garden, tossed in Laura's special dressing of mint and honey, lemon juice and wholegrain mustard."

Pure escapism, with panoramic views and mouth-watering descriptions.

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