Book 6: Inishowen By Joseph O’Connor

November 26, 2008 at 8:49 pm (Review) (, , , )

This is a story about an alcoholic detective (Martin Aiken) and an American woman (Ellen Donnelly) who is searching for her mother in Ireland, she was one of the children of an unwed mother sent to America for adoption. Both parties have had recent traumatic experiences and are drowning the emotional fallout caused by them. Obviously their lives become intertwined.

I liked this novel in a general non-specific sort of a way but had a couple of specific problems with it. I found the conceit that drew the two main characters together more than a little contrived, there is a howling coincidence at its heart that I hated a bit. Also there is a little bit to much of ‘oh isn’t Dublin a small place always running in to people’. Dublin is small but the rule in Dublin is if there is someone you’d love to run in to accidentally you will not, ever. However if there is someone you’d like to avoid like herpes then you will meet them, repeatedly in the course of an hour. The book does not adhere to this. 

O’Connor also touches on the oposition between how some Irish born and some Irish Americans felt about the troubles in the North. I’d have liked him to go in to this more but he did what Irish born often do when this comes up with each other and with Americans, which is swiftly drop it and change the subject. I’d have liked this conversation to go on a bit longer, especially since one of the characters clearly has strongly held views on this. I don’t think he quite managed to say what he was trying to. 

Martin Aiken is well created he feels real and complex. A study in someone coming undone that manages not to be maudlin or pitying. Ellen is also well rounded, her motivation understandable my only proviso is that in the circumstances she finds herself I think that some readers will find the idea that she would leave her children unlikely or incomprehensible. Some of the supporting players are well drawn, the best of which is Lee, Ellen’s son. O’Connor creates a very convincing teenage boy. Less convincing is her husband, his internal life never seems consistent to me he doesn’t feel fully formed. 

At times O’Connor writes dialogue in the Dublin accent. Normally I find writing in accent brain scrapeingly annoying but it’s not that bad in this because O’Connor obviously really knows and understands the accent and so it flows well (not as much as when Roddy Doyle does it but well none the less).

Inishowen is worth a read and rips along at a fair pace, with some interesting characters. The twist you will likely see coming a mile off but in the context it doesn’t matter much as it’s less about the plot and more about characters. 

As a side note Inishowen is a small place in Donegal that is incredibly beautiful and feels like the very end of the world. If you get a chance go there.

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