Sunday 17 December 2017

close-up of a small town

the o'hara affair kate thompson (Avon, €8.99)

This is the latest novel from award winning actress-turned-writer Kate Thompson. The earlier The Kinsella Sisters, about two sisters reunited in the west of Ireland after their father's death, provides the backdrop and main characters here.

So we're back in the idyllic town of Lissamore on the west coast of Ireland and it's now the location for a Hollywood blockbuster. As anyone who has witnessed film crews in action will know, that is akin to the circus coming to town. The film they are making tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara's ancestors before their emigration to the southern states of America and it's the biggest thing to have happened to sleepy Lissamore in living memory.

The central characters are three friends. Fleur owns the designer boutique and is the film producer's lover, while Dervla has retired from her high-flying job and settled with her husband in the old rectory. Her elderly mother-in-law, suffering from dementia, has come to live with them.

Finally, there is Rio, Dervla's sister whose former lover Shane is the star of the film and an internationally renowned actor. They still have feelings for each other and struggle with the remnants of their shared history.

Fleur is a kind-hearted and resolutely single woman with a strong maternal streak. She takes one of the extras under her wing, a lonely young girl, Bethany, who has formed an attachment to cyber buddy Hero from the online world Second Life. Fleur logs on under an alias to monitor what looks like an unhealthy obsession.

Dervla takes care of her mother-in-law, Daphne, who stretches her compassion and forbearance. This is so accurately written that I wondered if the author had personal experience of caring for a loved one with dementia.

Filming approaches its conclusion and the lives of those involved are irrevocably changed. A good read, slightly over the top but with some moving insights.

Irish Independent

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