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The Disenchanted Widow [Paperback]

Christina McKenna
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Aug 2013

It’s 1981 and Belfast is burning. So, too, is freshly widowed Bessie Halstone: she burns with a desire to break with her troubled past. With her feckless husband gone, she leaves home hurriedly with her naughty nine-year-old son, Herkie, and not much else. The Dentist, an IRA enforcer, is on her tail. He’s convinced that Bessie, with her “yella hair all puffed up like Merlin Monroe’s,” has absconded with the takings from a bank heist.

But car trouble strands mother and son in Tailorstown, a sleepy Ulster village. Bessie finds temporary work as housekeeper for the handsome and mysterious parish priest.

In the meantime, Lorcan Strong, an artist and a native of the village, is summoned home. He’s been shanghaied into forging paintings for the IRA. It’s work he cannot refuse; his mother and their business are under threat.

Yet things are not what they seem in quirky Tailorstown. There is a “sleeper” in the village. But who? Bizarrely, it is young Herkie, due to his childish curiosity, who unravels the mystery and saves the day.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (27 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611099536
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611099539
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christina McKenna grew up near the village of Draperstown, Co Derry, Northern Ireland. She trained as an artist before becoming a full-time author.

Her first book, the memoir "My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress", was published to great critical acclaim in 2004. It was described as a "redemptive postscript to over a decade of Irish childhood memoirs, concluding that our past, no matter how painful, need not keep us bound."

It was followed by two non-fiction titles dealing with the paranormal: "The Dark Sacrament" and "Ireland's Haunted Women".

Her first novel, "The Misremembered Man", published in the United States in 2008, is a tragicomedy set in the fictional village of Tailorstown. Contrary to certain press reports, the film rights to this title have not been sold.

A sequel, "The Disenchanted Widow", set largely in the same fictional village of Tailorstown, was published in August 2013.

Christina is currently working on the third novel in the Tailorstown series. Entitled "The Godforsaken Daughter", it's scheduled for publication in 2015.

She's also updated and revised her 2004 memoir, "My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress", which is now available both as a paperback and a Kindle.

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Praise for "My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress".

"There have been many books recalling Irish childhoods published over the last few years, but this one stands out among the rest for the brilliance of the writing".

Irish Emigrant

"Lyrical and elegiac but never sentimental . . . "

Waterstones

Praise for "The Misremembered Man"

"McKenna's ability to create real human drama . . . reminded me of Brian Moore's simply wonderful The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearn."

The Washington Times



Product Description

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Christina McKenna's `The Misremembered Man' is my favourite book of 2013 so far, and I was really pleased to get my hands a copy of her new release.

Bessie Lawless is `The Disenchanted Widow' of the title, her husband Packie having recently died in a car accident after taking part in a robbery and failing to disclose the location of the loot either to Bessie or his IRA bosses. Bessie goes on the run in a bid to escape one particularly brutal terrorist enforcer (known as `The Dentist' for reasons which soon become obvious), and to raise funds for her escape to `Amerikay' with her nine year old son Herkie. Her plans are thwarted when their car breaks down in the sleepy backwater Tailorstown, but a job as housekeeper to the local priest proves to be not quite as dull as she first anticipated.

The book is set in Northern Ireland in 1981 and, although there's mention of IRA atrocities and the deaths of the hunger strikers etc, this is pretty much background information and Tailorstown itself is relatively untouched by The Troubles (or is it?). Streetwise Bessie causes quite a stir amongst the locals with her `Merlin Monroe' hairstyle and McKenna's gift for lyrical banter and colourful characterisation is very much in evidence. Herkie's blend of tough city-kid cynicism and youthful innocence is adorable and the narrative is laugh-out-loud funny in places. I didn't experience the same tug-at-the-heartstrings poignancy as I did with The Misremembered Man, but still really enjoyed the lovely touches of humour and sentiment (a lot of them care of the redoubtable Rose McFadden who also featured in TMM).

A very satisfying and rewarding read. I recommended TMM to a couple of my friends and they loved it so I'll also be suggesting they get hold of a copy of this one.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A WIDOW'S WOES 17 Oct 2013
By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
On the run from the IRA and an "enforcer" called The Butcher, widow Bessie Lawless and her young son Herkie leave Belfast only to find themselves temporarily stranded in the town of Tailorstown awaiting repairs to her car. The town itself boasts an excessive number of odd ducks ranging from nosy gossips, to a closet drag queen, to an art restorer named Lorcan Strong, a man who also has more than a passing relationship with The Butcher. Short on money and with no where else to go Bessie accepts the invitation of a local man called Gusty Grant, whose acquaintance with soap and water is sadly lacking, and moves into the cottage once owned by his recently deceased Aunt Dora. In attempt to earn a few dollars she takes a job as a temporary replacement housekeeper to the local priest and from there, the plot slowly thickens into a look at life and times in rural Ireland, circa 1981.

Some readers may find the heavy Irish dialect of the written word in THE DISENCHANTED WIDOW a bit difficult to read and therefore off putting. I personally did not mind it at all and could almost hear the lilting cadence of conversations in my head. As with most novels, some of the characters are more interesting and likable than others. Bessie's nine year old son Herkie (Hercules) came across, at least to this reader, as a somewhat sneaky, undisciplined child whose entire life revolved around acts of vandalism, calculating ways getting a new Action Man toy and seeing how many sugar ladened foods he could consume. Not a very appealing child.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and very well written. 2 May 2013
By Moonshine. VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I amazed myself by reading this quite long book in one sitting. It is packed with Irish humor and sparkling dialogue. The different accents have been caught accurately. The characters are well constructed and the good guys are easy to like. It is a tragi-comedy.
Terrorism is in the background and doesn't spoil the fun. It is the way the author captures the idiosyncracies of her characters that makes this book so entertaining. I loved it from start to finish.
There are lots of interesting dialect words and modern ones too.
There is an irreverent humor that mocks the hypocrisy of holy Joes and Josephines.
The author understands human nature well, portraying it with sympatico. It is a warm, insightful book that is written in a flowing style that is easy to read.
The dentist is not the sort you would want on the National Health.
Bessie is the archetypal earth mother under stress. Lorcan Strong is stronger than he thinks.
Will the two come together? Is romance in the air?
The author paints a series of vignettes, tableaux and pictures to delight the heart.
It has elements of a rollicking good play that would be a delight on the stage of 'The Lyric Theatre.'
In the end it affirms human nature, rather than condemning it.
The cover shown wouldn't do it justice.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light hearted fun 20 Sep 2013
By Ros
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A light fun read with some witty one liners. Kept me engaged enough and I loved references to the period in time, brought back memories! My favourite line "she was that plain looking not even the tide would take her out!"
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The disenchanted Widow
I couldn't put this book down. Tears of laughter, heart stopping scenes and memories of the terrible "troubles" in Northern Ireland woven into a seamless story. Read more
Published 13 hours ago by Mrs. Vl Stephens
4.0 out of 5 stars Unhappy widow
A funny book in parts sad in other not a bad read unfortunately this is not th type of book I usually read but not to bad
Published 15 hours ago by Jeannie Lynne Lovelock
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant read
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The colloquial language was written in such a way that you could just imagine it being spoken. I laughed and cried In equal measure. Read more
Published 17 hours ago by Joy
5.0 out of 5 stars ... but once story line becomes clear it was a good read.
Bit hard going to start with but once story line becomes clear it was a good read.
Published 1 day ago by Peter D Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
A really good story, sad but very funny. Loved the Irish dialect. Can thoroughly recommend. Will be looking for more books from this author.
Published 1 day ago by deborah vaughan
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not as good as her previous book "The Misremembered Man" which was brilliant. This one is a more predictable.
Published 2 days ago by berenice mccrae
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant
Published 2 days ago by Veronica Harvey
4.0 out of 5 stars This is an ace book
I liked characters and also dialect which at times very funny and I found the book entertaining. The humanity of the characters very good in contrast to the darker side and all in... Read more
Published 2 days ago by p johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book
Good value but I would say worth the full price good storylines,I was aware of the Irish troubles but this story made them real
Published 4 days ago by PRJ IOM
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Funny, sad and a twist in the tail!
Published 6 days ago by Christine Lunn
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