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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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VINE VOICEon 2 May 2013
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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on 17 October 2013
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.

This is one of those stories that, while built around a scenario of hunger strikes, IRA bombings and brutality, and a mother and child in peril, still comes off as something akin to a combination of a Keystone Cops vignette coupled with an old 1940's film noir complete with convenient coincidences and a neat, tidy ending.

While DISENCHANTED WIDOW is not the best book I ever read, it is mildly entertaining and worth the time invested in reading it. 3 1/2 stars
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on 20 September 2013
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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on 31 August 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is possibly the most hilariously funny book I've read this year - and considering that it's set against the backdrop of the Troubles in '80's Northern Ireland - that's an achievement in itself.
The Irish "voice" of this book is vivid and enchanting, and I found myself both chuckling and hooting with laughter throughout my read - Indeed, I must warn potential readers not to take drink whilst reading this,lest, like me, you find yourself almost asphyxiating between the mis-swallowed drink and the comedy that precipitated the mis-swallow !
Bessie makes for a fabulous heroine, and Herkie's a delight; and as for the Dentist, well, he'd certainly give Szell from Marathon Man more than a run for his money !
Just buy this, enjoy this and pass it to the next person who need cheering up - They'll love you for it !
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on 19 April 2014
This the first book I have read by this local author. It's brilliant and I would recommend you give it a go. It's well worth the 5 stars. I see Christina McKenna has written another book . I can't wait to download it
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on 20 June 2016
Really enjoyed the author's previous novel "The Misremembered Man" so was really looking forward to reading her latest offering. Unfortunately it did not reach the highs of her previous book. I cannot put my finger on why and could be simply that I was not in the right mood for this type of novel at the time of reading as it is a good read.
Set in Northern Ireland in the 1970's a widow escapes the clutches of the IRA and sets up home in a sleepy country village with her young wayward son "Herky" who gets up to all sorts of mischief.
The story is funny in places but when the IRA terrorist catches up with the widow things do not look good.
The story has a nice ending for those who like to leave a book happy
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on 7 April 2014
I know very little of the troubles in Northern Ireland so I didn't know what to expect of this book. However, the characters of Bessie and her son are so likeable from the start that I wanted them to succeed in their new life, and was so relieved that the story had a happy ending. There are a lot of stereotypes in there and some of the situations border on farce, but it is a story after all. This is the first book I've read by this author but hopefully it won't be the last.
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on 23 November 2014
I am afraid that I did not enjoy this book and gave up it after about three chapters - which is unlike me as I usually plough through to the end. I can't put my finger on the problem, something about the setting, the writing style and the rather depressing content perhaps. Not one for me.
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on 9 October 2013
Have read other books by this author and found this one a waste of time.
None of the characters were believable and coming from Northern Ireland I was puzzled by the language.
Nobody I know speaks like this !
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