Sunday 20 October 2019

PS, there's more to this sequel than tying up loose ends

Cecelia Ahern writes a book, sometimes two a year
Cecelia Ahern writes a book, sometimes two a year
Postscript

Sophie White

The release of Postscript is the other long-awaited sequel of 2019, but first a little montage of the phenomenon that was the original - 2004's PS, I Love You.

Penned by Cecelia Ahern at just 21, it spent 19 weeks at number one on the Irish bestsellers chart, and was number one in the UK, America and Germany.

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Hollywood nabbed the rights, Hilary Swank played the lead and Ahern meanwhile has gone on to helm one of the most impressive writing careers in the world.

Her return to Holly and Gerry in Postscript is set seven years after the original and finds Holly working in her sister Ciara's second-hand store, in a relationship with Gabriel and to all intents and purposes having moved on.

However, she is still living in her and Gerry's old house and is seemingly in a state of paralysis regarding career and committing to Gabriel.

When Ciara convinces Holly to share her experience of grief and the PS letters on her podcast, a whole new chapter of self-discovery begins and Holly finds herself helping a group of terminally ill men and women to create their own PS, I Love You-style legacies.

As a flawed heroine, Holly is very well observed. Readers who have lost someone close to them will recognise her harsher aspects, the coursing anger that can fuel you during the years of raw grief. Holly plays a game of comparison even with the terminally ill people she meets, a young father dying in his forties still had more time than Gerry.

It's abhorrent but it's real and true, these are the hateful things we think when we're in pain and Ahern doesn't whitewash any of the less palatable reactions to loss.

Sharon and Denise, Holly's best friends are still on the scene from the first book and through their dynamic Ahern explores a situation familiar to many women in their 30s and 40s - Sharon is pregnant (again) while her close friend Denise is reaching the end of a thankless and gruelling IVF journey.

Denise's grief allows for a broader examination of loss than perhaps the more typical scenario and Ahern handles this strand of the story with utmost care; this strain of grief is a particularly brutal one.

For Postscript, Ahern has changed to the first person and the switch suits the material, PS was supremely Holly-centric while Postscript shows a more mature Holly - whose focus has turned outward - meditating on the very nature of death and illness.

A striking passage, "Death becomes our saviour. Life is light, dying is darkness, death is light again. Full circle", will surely resonate with anyone acquainted with the cruel trudge of long illness. Though the subject matter may be serious, Ahern deftly lightens proceedings with her trademark wit. At one point, Denise and Holly question Gerry's motives with the PS letters and Denise quips that "Gerry may very well have had a dark side... and he was f*cking with you from the grave'.

Having never intended to write a follow up to her stellar-hit, Ahern has delivered a sequel that will satisfy fans of the original which also works as a standalone volume exploring one of the fundamentals of the human experience with humour, warmth and pathos.

fiction

Postscript

Cecelia Ahern,

Harper Collins, €19.60

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