It’s the summer of 1981. Newly widowed Bessie Halstone is fleeing Belfast with her young son, Herkie. She’s wrongly suspected of pocketing £10,000, the loot from a heist carried out by Packie, her late (and unmourned) husband.
Bessie has plans. She longs to make a fresh start. But first she must reach the safety of her sister’s home, in County Sligo, to borrow money for the trip.
She doesn’t make it. Car trouble forces her to sojourn in Tailorstown, a sleepy rural community. Her plans are put on hold as she decides to lay low for a while.
She’ll need cash. She finds work as a housekeeper for the handsome but mysterious parish priest.
In the meantime, Lorcan Strong, an artist and a native of Tailorstown, is summoned home. With reluctance, he returns to the place where he feels almost a stranger, a town he has long outgrown.
A chance meeting with young Herkie Halstone leads Lorcan into the world of the disenchanted Bessie — and into a grave danger that has pursued them both from Belfast.
The Disenchanted Widow is an unforgettable peek into small-town life in Ireland’s recent past. It’s a glorious successor to McKenna’s first Tailorstown novel, The Misremembered Man.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Christina McKenna is a graduate of Belfast College of Art, where she gained an honors degree in fine art, and later a postgraduate degree in English from the University of Ulster. An accomplished painter and novelist, McKenna has exhibited her art internationally and in Ireland, and taught art and English for ten years. She is the author of the highly praised memoir My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress, as well as the nonfiction books The Dark Sacrament and Ireland’s Haunted Women, and a previous Tailorstown novel, The Misremembered Man. She currently lives in Northern Ireland with her husband, the author David M. Kiely, with whom she collaborates on occasion.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think it's safe to say this one wasn't for me at all. Unfortunately this was my first book by this author and I already have another 2 purchased - if this book is representative of her work then I am rather regretting my rash purchase of 3 books by an untried author. I will be honest, the whole Irish thing swayed me - I have said it before, and will doubtless say it many times - there is something about Irish authors writing about their homeland that gets right to the heart of people and situations and drags me straight in. Maybe that meant I went in to this book with my expectations set way too high, maybe I just didn't like it. Really this is the story of 4 separate people who are all thrown together by circumstance and set during The Troubles in early 1980s Northern Ireland. Bessie Lawless/Elizabeth Halstone on the run after her alcoholic husbands demise in a car accident, Gusty Grant the hapless mechanic with hidden proclivities, Father Cassidy moved to a small parish from a big city and Lorcan Strong artist and restorer who returns to his home town. Their stories mesh and twine around each other set against the back drop of radio and newspaper reports on the Hunger Strikes and the back drop of small town nosiness and gossip. There is what could be a very good story here, unfortunately I just couldn't enjoy it. The insistence of the author to put speech in to a faux Irish dialect really began to grate. Dialects are spoken, not written, and the constant manipulation of language to try and ineffectually replicate speech drive me to distraction. We know what an Irish accent sounds like, we understand the vagaries of vowel sounds and consonant combinations so allow the reader to hear the voice instead of foisting it on them. It is nowhere near as bad as Angela's Ashes which I found completely impenetrable due to the linguistics employed but I really found it annoying. The characters themselves are pretty much one or two trick ponies. You get the sense there is something more to them than you are shown but it never gets revealed on the page. Our main character Bessie remains the hard-faced brassy woman throughout and never deviates from this role. She has moments of empathy with her son but they are rarely seen and she treats absolutely everyone with wariness or contempt. This is the one character everything hangs on so you can imagine how little exploration of the others we get. Having lived through the time period this book is set in (albeit in England) I also didn't really feel a sense of the tension of the time. I was at an age to start being more aware of what was happening in the world around me and although I felt safe in my small home town any visit to a neighbouring city was fraught with worry - borne out after it was devastatingly bombed by the IRA. If I felt like that imagine how much worse it was anywhere in Northern Ireland - nowhere was safe and anybody could be a secret paramilitary. Very scary times that felt almost glossed over. I will persevere with the other two books but they have slid a long way down my reading list now.
I just could not resist recommending this book. In my opinion it is the best book in McKenna trilogy about Tailorstown. One can read each book without reading the other two. Each book is different but they are all filled with Irish dialect that, if one is not Irish, takes some time to get used to. But it is worth it. The plot is described in “overview” so I will not repeat it here. What I love about this book is that, despite all problems in 1980s Ireland, the book is not about Irish martyrdom but about people who, unwillingly, got caught in the difficult reality. There are dark and bad things happening but they are happening in the background. Plots are probably not very realistic since things have a tendency to turn up better than they would in real life but it just adds to the book’s charm. However it is not exactly sugar-coated story; all characters, even likable and positive ones, have a wicked side to them. It makes them so much more real. I recommend this book to everybody who likes books about Ireland, who looks for something light and funny to read and who is prepared to commit few hours to non-stop reading (since, once started, the book is very difficult to put down). There is also extra bonus; one actually learns something about Ireland in 1980s. About the the other two books in trilogy; those who liked Maeve Binchy “Circle of Freinds” may like “The Godforsaken Daughter”, those who liked “Angela’a Ashes” may like “The Misremembered Man”. There are some common elements in them. “The Disenchanted Widow” is different from all the above and very refreshing.