'Heir to Maeve Binchy' makes return to Roone island a welcome and unforgettable experience
After the Wedding Roisin Meaney, Hachette Ireland, tpbk, €17.95, 320 pages Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709 350
We produce more successful chick-lit authors here than anywhere else in the world, and I'm intrigued. Why so?
What is it that makes these authors sell so well? Marian Keyes once said that chick-lit is a pejorative term. Not to me, I simply mean a genre, written by women, where primarily it's the plot that drives.
Maybe that's the answer; it's the plot that drives, and the characters are ordinary. And also – inevitably – the heroine is flawed. Heroines get it wrong; they make bad choices and regularly draw the wrong conclusions, just like Elizabeth Bennett did with Mr Darcy. We do so like it when our sisters get it wrong. Makes 'em human.
In After the Wedding, we return to Roone, a fictional island off the west coast of Ireland, to revisit a cast introduced in a previous Meaney novel, One Summer.
Perhaps it's because the new novel is a sequel that I found it difficult, initially, to follow the who's-who. There are 350 people living on Roone, and I felt like I'd met 349 of them by page 11. But I settled into it.
The book opens with the disappearance of a little girl, on holidays on Roone with her parents. Shades of Madeleine McCann here, and the island community is understandably shaken.
Nell Mulcahy and James Baker, meanwhile, are off in Clare quietly getting married. They return to Roone to find search parties everywhere in the quest to find Ellie. But the missing child is just one strand of this multi-stranded plot with its big cast.
There's Eve, the sullen teenager, and Laura the hugely pregnant B&B landlady, and Nell's father Dennis, shunned by the community for running off with a fancy woman . . . all human life is here. And the afterlife, too. The ghost of Old Man Walter has a walk-on cameo part. The many strands are, of course, neatly tied up in the end.
This is supreme chick-lit. Plot-driven, sometimes funny, and crammed with faulty, erring, ornery human beans.
Roisin Meaney has been called Maeve Binchy's successor more than once. That's quite a tribute. And if the cap fits, well . . .