Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes
|Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: 2013 has left one of its best books till last; I've read it twice already! The idea of sensible versus excitement may be as old as romance writing, but this time it's poignant, realistic and fresh with twists to tear your heart out.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: December 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Belfast 1949: Katherine is about to become engaged to fireman George Bedford when she meets Tom McKinley. He's bright fun and makes her feel more alive than dependable, boring George ever could. The weight of the decision Katherine eventually makes will haunt her for a lifetime. We fast forward to Belfast 1969 and as the troubles in Northern Ireland exacerbate, as do the cracks in Katherine's marriage. In fact 20 years and four children later, they've become chasms.
This is Michele Forbes' debut novel, something we quickly forget once we start reading. Not only is the idea that this is where Michele's career as a published novelist begins hard to believe, she doesn't even make it easy for herself. A woman having to choose between exciting and reliable men is a literary cliché that occasionally brings success (think Bridget Jones) but rarely is it conveyed with as much beauty and feeling as Michele manages while instilling realism and relevance.
Katherine feels very authentic and totally sympathetic. Ok, as the novel wanders back and forth between 1949 and 1969 we may raise our eyebrows at some of the things she did in her youth, but that's youth. In 1969 she's struggling to keep her life on course, raising the family while her married life to George is blighted by thoughts of Tom. Yes, we know from page one whom she chose; the twists, turns and 100 volt shocks come from how the choice was made and its effects.
This central trio are written in succinct depth that doesn't get in the way of the momentum. Michele wants us to care and, by gosh, we so do! None of them are nasty, just pawns of events, emotions and life. Gradually the gaps in Katherine's romantic history are filled in and we understand why she's haunted.
The incidentals are as well nailed as the plot and characters. I would suggest that if Michele doesn’t know first-hand about the interactions and chaotic havoc of living with four children, she's had excellent advice. The banter, the hard work and general hair-pulling-parenting are well conveyed providing moments of light as darkness beckons and we follow, hypnotised.
A divided Belfast is the other main presence. Nothing is said but the air is heavy with the concern about whether George will return or not each time he risks attack or booby trap to put a fire out. Also the poignant realities of being a Catholic family in a Protestant street hit us as they hit the kids. However these are also mixed with happy, humorous moments as we gladly adopt the memories of others' lives.
As the pages turn we prepare ourselves and think we're ready for anything. We read expecting a game-changer to appear like a volcanic eruption but when it does occur, it's a knife to our guts and then the knife is twisted in a way that we least suspect.
Having said that, this isn't a story marinated in violence as it often demonstrates a gentle beauty and with the most compellingly sensuous passage about tailoring any of us will ever read anywhere. Admission incoming: I generally skip sensuous bits. I'm not a prude, it just tends to get in the way for me but I re-read that scene a few times in all its highly-charged charm.
My suggestion is that you soak up the prose, enjoy the journey and make sure you have the tissues handy. If, as the cover blurb suggests, it can affect Roddy Doyle then none of us are safe!
We're indebted to W&N for providing us with a review copy.
Further Reading: If this appeals then you'll also adore Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler.
You can read more book reviews or buy Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes at Amazon.com.
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