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A nightmare indeed
on 23 March 2011
One sunny day, 16 year old Nuala is helping out her Da, delivering coal to various househols in the area . One household turns away his order, and left with two bags of coal in the back of his beaten up pick up truck, he decides to take a gamble, turning up a tree lined avenue leading to a large country house. He hopes to sell the last couple of bags of coal to the guy living there, but over a few drinks of whisky, makes an altogether different kind of sale - offering Nualas hand in marriage to a gentleman almost four times her age, for the sum of £2500, and a Morris Mini.
At first, Nuala thinks her dad is joking when he mentions that she is to be married to this old man she hardly knows. When it becomes clear he is serious, she tries to argue against it, but recieves only beatings for her defiance. Eventually, Nuala decides to just go along with it in the hopes of making an escape later - after all, she has been promised this will be a sexless marriage, and her husband to be has told her she will never want for anything.
And at first, it seems things might not be so bad. Whilst she and her husband are strangers living in a large house, he takes a great delight in showing Nuala off, and in buying her little treats, However, it soon becomes clear that he is not content with a sexless marriage at all - and Nuala finfs herself tied down by a stranger who watches as her husband rapes her.
I've read a few books on forced marriage, but in most cases they have been within the context of a certain religion or culture. Whilst forced marriage is NEVER right, there are certain cultures where arranged arriage is accepted, even expected. However, Nuala grew up as a Catholic, certainly not a religion where arranged marriage was the norm. And it's pretty clear that her father had financial gain on his mind rather than his daughters best interests .
Perhaps the saddest parts of the book are the times Nuala tries to seek help - first by going to the Garda, the Irish equivalent of the police. Unfortunately, in the 70's when these events occured, rape within marriage was not recognised as a crime. In the eyes of the law, her geriatric husband was perfectly entitled to have sex with her - even if he did get a bit forceful.
The book is written in the third person, by a reporter from the Sunday World, the Irish newspaper that first publicised Nualas story. I personally find this made it harder for me to engage with the story, as I couldn't really get a good idea of how Nuala herself was feeling at various points. It is almost as though the third person perspective dilutes the emotion of the story, making it seem a lot more impersonal.
Despite the fact that I found it hard to really engage with Nuala, the book itself was well laid out, and the story told in an easy to follow way. I found many parts of it incredibly shocking, and there were times when I was really rooting for Nuala to make a break for it. There were a couple of moments where I came rather close to tears, and others where I was just downright angry.
Overall, I found this an interesting book. I did find that the third person writing style left me feeling distanced from events, for which I am deducting 2 stars, but I do think if you happen to see this book somewhere, it is worth picking up for a read.