Saturday 20 July 2019

Jane Austen spiked with a dash of 'Made in Chelsea'

Fiction: The Inheritance, Ally Bunbury, Poolbeg, pbk, 368 pages, €16.99

Country girl: Ally Bunbury worked in PR in London before moving to Lisnavagh Estate, Co Carlow. Photo: Rachael Comiskey
Country girl: Ally Bunbury worked in PR in London before moving to Lisnavagh Estate, Co Carlow. Photo: Rachael Comiskey
Leslie Ann Horgan

Leslie Ann Horgan

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a twenty-something woman in possession of a good career must be in want of a husband. At least that's the universe occupied by high-flying PR Anna Rose and the glam-pack of London…

There was a time when I would have put down a book filled with characters called 'Gilda' and 'Tilly' and society events that sound like equal parts Victorian etiquette and Ibiza nightclub - but thanks to the TV exploits of the equally moneyed and irritatingly-monikered stars of Made in Chelsea, the scene set by The Inheritance is now all too believable.

The story follows Irish-born Anna, a rising star at Winterbottom PR, where she manages to juggle the demands of her colourful clients with those of her larger-than-life boss. One of the biggest challenges is keeping Gilda - who is battling the twin demons of ageism and working mum's guilt - from hitting the bottle (of champers, natch) too early each day.

But it's at a work event where our flaxen-haired heroine catches the eye of prize bachelor George Wyndham. It's not long before his love of art and his large estate in Scotland have Anna infatuated, and she's starting to dream of setting up home together rather than setting up Winterbottom's Paris office. George seems to genuinely return her affections, but American actress and wildchild Sofia Tamper and her shadowy mother are determined to get in their way.

So far, so Pride & Prejudice, but where The Inheritance differs from other novels is in shining a light on a very different contemporary Ireland to the one most of us know. When Anna brings George home to Farley Hall in the West, they're greeted by peacocks, thoroughbreds and a housekeeper who defrosts a pheasant for dinner. As you do.

Debut novelist Ally Bunbury was herself a PR rubbing shoulders with the glitterati in London, who now lives with her young family on the Lisnavagh Estate in Co Carlow.

It's with an eye for authentic detail and no small amount of humour that she brings these very different worlds to life - making both seem glamorous and suffocating in their own ways.

Although the conversations in the book are frequently stilted, and some of the peripheral characters are poorly drawn stereotypes, the entertaining plot of The Inheritance is anything but linear. When dark secrets from the past are exposed, will the protagonists choose love over money?

Well, not if Made in Chelsea is anything to go by.

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