Books: Insight from women caught between worlds
Flight, Oona Frawley, Tramp Press €13
IT'S 2004 and Ireland is coming to grips with its new identity as a global phenomena, with its well-educated, well-travelled workforce, a booming economy and sudden new-found wealth. Seemingly overnight, it has become a favoured destination for huge multinationals. Further down the economic scale, migrant workers travel to Ireland looking to better their lives and the lives of those left behind. And no-one pays any heed to the growing whimpers of the wounded Celtic Tiger.
Flight is a slow, meditative tale about four people and the journeys they have undertaken to bring them to this juncture in their lives. Sandrine, a teacher from Zimbabwe, leaves behind her husband and son, in the hope of furthering her education and thus improving her prospects in her hometown, torn by internecine fighting, poverty and brutality. It hurts her to leave but she is buoyed by the prospect of coming to this caring, Catholic country she has heard so much about. But even on the flight over she is beset by doubts, scrutinised by fellow passengers who stare at her coloured skin. She feels a flutter of worry for the child she is carrying, the child she has told no-one about yet.
Things happen quickly when she arrives and she finds herself, not a student as intended, but as a full-time carer to an elderly couple who are gradually succumbing to the madness and darkness of dementia. Tom and Clare are back living in Dublin, in a house crammed with half-forgotten memories and artefacts from their world travels. Elizabeth, their 37-year-old divorced daughter, is relieved when Sandrine steps in to help, as her parents struggle to understand what is happening, to themselves and each other.
Frawley's strength lies here; in the evocation of this heartbreaking and bewildering disease and her insights into the half-life of those migrant workers, trapped in the nebulous world of dodgy 'language schools' and changing immigration laws. Her language is clear, at times lyrical, especially when describing landscapes, both internal and external. Her depiction of colonial and local Vietnam, in all its exotic splendour is memorable, as is the portrayal of the teenage yearnings of Elizabeth, who like Sandrine later, is caught between two worlds.
Flight is a thought-provoking portrait of a country on the cusp, and Frawley, left, a fresh voice. She made me think about what it means to be Irish, or 'new Irish' or so-called 'non-Irish' and every shade in between.
Sunday Indo Living