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Meet Bessie Lawless, recently widowed and routinely brazen...
on 5 May 2013
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.