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A WIDOW'S WOES
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