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Perfect escapism as godmothers make an offer not to be refused

The Godmothers

Monica McInerney

Welbeck, €12.99

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Monica McInerney... perfect  antidote to the lockdown

Monica McInerney... perfect antidote to the lockdown

Monica McInerney... perfect antidote to the lockdown

Monica McInerney is a very successful Aussie writer (voted Australia's favourite novelist four times in the last decade), who began her career in 2001 with A Taste for It - about an Australian chef called Maura travelling around Ireland. Her latest novel, The Godmothers, takes her back to our shores once again.

The Godmothers centres on Eliza, a buttoned-down, uptight 30-year-old who, in the space of a week, loses her job and her apartment in Melbourne.

The reasons for Eliza's control-freakery are very apparent. After a childhood with an erratic and unconventional, but loving, single mother, Jeannie, who dragged her from pillar to post, Eliza has played safe and spent her entire working life toiling for narcissistic nightmare Gillian, building up Gillian's business for no thanks and little reward.

Having no father, no siblings, grandparents or any other family, the only constants in Eliza's life have been her two godmothers, her mother's boarding school chums. Maxie is a famous actress who started out in Australian soaps and has become a British television institution.

Olivia is a pragmatic businesswoman whose (older) husband is in a care home with Alzheimer's. She has been left with the responsibility of running her husband's top-notch hotel in Edinburgh while trying to accommodate his two sons, Alex and Rory, and his late wife's mother, the demanding and demented Celine.

Eliza has no idea who her father is. Jeannie always promised she would tell her everything on her 18th birthday but she died shortly beforehand, leaving Eliza emotionally devastated.

After her life suddenly implodes, she decides, despite having developed a phobia of flying since her mother's death, that her godmothers' offer of a holiday in Edinburgh is one she can't refuse.

Making the long journey to Scotland is the first step to finally finding out who her father is. What she hasn't bargained for is that her godmothers, feeling parental towards her, have kept many of Jeannie's secrets and that her late mother wasn't quite the person that Eliza thought she was.

Eliza already knew that Jeannie was a creative storyteller but when some of her lies are exposed, she feels cheated.

"For 13 years. I've done nothing but try to be the best behaved person I can, to try to keep everything bad at bay, stop anything else terrible happening to me. But it was pointless, wasn't it? Because I was in the dark all that time. My life could have been so different."

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Eliza is also shocked to discover that the godmothers don't know who her father is. The most likely suspect is an Irish man called Emmet whom her mother met in London and shared a house with in Australia. In between, Jeannie had worked in his family's pub in Ireland, in view of an ancient castle. With so many castles in Ireland, the search seems pointless until they get a clue courtesy of a Mel Gibson film. (The actor is "pocket-sized. It's all done with trick photography," according to gorgon Celine, who gets all the best lines. )

Eliza's physical and emotional journey changes her life. After 13 years of being shut down and cut off, she finally starts to live again. Surrounded by handsome men in Edinburgh, she even finds a bit of romance.

Readers will be delighted to hear that the Irish characters actually speak like real Irish people. McInerney perfectly captures the rhythm of speech and uses Irish-isms properly. The pacing is good throughout, letting readers enjoy the vivid scenery but not getting bogged down with extraneous details.

Being able to travel to Australia, Scotland, London and Ireland virtually, while we are stuck at home makes The Godmothers the perfect antidote to lockdown.


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