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Review: Fiction: A Family Scandal by Zoe Miller

One of the reasons behind the enduring popularity of this country's prolific chicklit writers is that their novels are often very 'Irish'. As a result, the protagonists are usually someone the reader can identify with -- and if we don't find some smidgen of our own lives staring back at us from the pages, then we often catch a glimpse of someone we know.

But Dublin author Zoe Miller's fourth novel, A Family Scandal, has bravely thrown the chicklit rule book under a speeding 46A.

For a start, the three sisters at the centre of the novel -- Ellie, Miranda and Lucy Morgan -- inhabit a world that seems more like another planet to most.

Their mum is a grand dame of the Irish theatre who had a brief fling with Scottish rock prodigy Zach Anderson that resulted in youngest sister Lucy, now an up- and-coming model in London.

Older sister Ellie is a lauded Irish designer while middle sibling Miranda is a high-flying financier worker in Hong Kong.

After the anniversary of Zach's mysterious death and Ellie's high-profile split with a Dublin playboy intensifies media scrutiny, the oldest Morgan sister flees to New York.

The narrative, therefore, plays out predominantly on three different continents -- another risky departure from the traditional chicklit formula.

Another thing that sets A Family Scandal apart from many of its rivals is Miller's relatively racy bedroom scenes.

While many authors favour stripping back emotional layers rather than lacy undies, Miller chooses to err on the racier, lacier and downright raunchier side. It is not gratuitous or over-glamorised, but the sex scenes are given a little less of the soft-focus treatment.

These risks ultimately pay off. She may not offer us girl-next-door types we can identify with or a lifestyle we can recognise, but the fractious family relationships and glamour of it all keep us reading.

In what I can't decide is a flaw or a narrative nod to her position in the overlooked middle-sibling position, Miranda and her story seem a little neglected by the author.

However, toward the end of the novel she moves into the foreground and finds her place in the novel, just as she asserts herself to her two domineering sisters.

Miller gives us a glamour-filled read that may not reflect the world we live in, but allows us to escape it for a few hours.

Rachel Dugan

Indo Review