Saturday 25 November 2017

Review: Popular Fiction: The Pink Ladies Club by Emma Hannigan

Poolbeg, €13.99

Emma Hannigan, well-known from her appearances on The Late Late Show, is an extraordinary woman who turned her long battle with cancer into bestselling books like the memoir Talk to the Headscarf and the novel Designer Genes.

The Pink Ladies Club is the third novel by Emma, who continues to deliver despite battling cancer to date for the seventh time.

Most of us will have encountered cancer either personally or in our extended families or among friends and most of us know how horrible it is. But Emma manages to write about the cancer experience with a lightness of touch and a well-directed deftness that avoids either sentiment or the morose. Somehow she makes the unbearable and unmentionable something we can engage with.

In the new novel, the Pink Ladies of the title are members of an unusual club -- they all have cancer. Their club is a support group in which they reluctantly find themselves meeting to help each other through the indignities of the dreaded chemo and radium.

Zoe, who is just 22 and runs her own boutique, has ovarian cancer; Esme, the warm-hearted Dub with the adoring family whose glass is always half full, is 69. And in the middle somewhere is perhaps the best-written character, Tanya, a complex and glamorous business-woman who is almost too tough to be loveable. Her relationship with Alfie, her self-effacing house husband, is poignant and suffused with unexpected emotion.

As Esme proceeds with enormous enthusiasm to plan her 70th birthday and Zoe finds the motivation to survive her treatment, we urge them along and applaud their courage.

Not all three women may last the course, but for them and their counsellor Sian, who has lost the man she adored to the disease, the experience of facing and fighting this illness is life-changing -- and even life-enhancing.

This is a novel that resounds with hope, courage and, in spite of the circumstances, joie de vivre. Read and be inspired.

Mairead Byrne

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