Friday 15 December 2017

Review: Consequences by Muriel Bolger

Hachette Books Ireland, €14.99

Margaret Carragher

THOUGH long departed, the Celtic Tiger continues to provide endless fodder not just for political, economic and social commentators, but also for popular fiction writers.

Take for example Muriel Bolger's debut novel, Consequences, the opening pages of which read like a roll-call of Ireland's niftiest movers and shakers in the boom years of the Noughties.

There's property mogul Derek and his PR maven wife Sharonne; architect Rory and his earth mother-of-three wife Trish; legal eagle Conor and his upmarket receptionist wife Maeve; single man-about-town surveyor Liam and his ever-changing arm candy; and a retinue of spoilt kids, moody teenagers and designer-clad extras.

It's 2006, the economy is poised on a rapidly crumbling cliff edge, but our Celtic Tiger cubs are blissfully oblivious to their impending doom as they squander the spoils of the boom years on dodgy foreign property, worthless "gilt-edged" investments and a wildly extravagant lifestyle.

Despite continuous low-grade bitchiness among the womenfolk, and relentless, if genial, one-upmanship among their men, the group gathers regularly in Dublin's glitziest watering holes, to swill fizz and plan their next escape to Conor and Maeve's luxury villa on the Costa del Sol.

The holiday blueprint never varies -- two chilled-out, child-free weeks under a blazing Spanish sun, the men swinging their golf clubs on manicured fairways while the women shop till they drop by the pool, sip kick-ass cocktails, and work on their tans before donning designer gunas to join the lads for drinks at the 19th hole and dinner in the Costa's hottest, most happening eateries.

No reason to suppose that this holiday might be any different.

Until the deeply shallow Sharonne (never Sharon), miffed after Maeve turns up at a golf-do in a dress identical to her own, decides to stay behind and catch up on work. While she's spoon-feeding her favoured clients in Dublin restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, her husband is making eyes at a pair of blonde Finnish bombshells across the red-and-white check tablecloths of their favourite Spanish bistro.

From then on, the flirtatious Finns Anna Maria and Agneta latch onto the lads on the golf course while their ladies continue undaunted on the sun'n'shopping circuit.

Meanwhile, back in Dublin, her humour restored by the acquisition of a truckload of designer tat and the attentions of a suave French financier client, Sharonne decides to join the others in Spain where she finds a new target for her ever-simmering ire in the nubile Finns.

Then Maeve finds a lump in her breast and is torn between sharing her fears and spoiling the fun, or keeping her dread discovery secret.

As the holiday comes to an end amid plans to reconnect for an upcoming 40th birthday, everyone goes home and things return to what passes for normal. But not for long ...

Against a rapidly changing economic backdrop, Bolger's deftly drawn characters find themselves grappling with the consequences of secrets and lies, duplicitous wheeler dealers, and the terrifying spectre of life-changing illness.

An engaging piece of work from one of Ireland's foremost travel writers.

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