Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Favourite Irish and British Writers

I just finished reading Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly, one of my favourite Irish authors. My cousin Lisa lent me a bag of books recently and so I picked this one up because it was a Kelly I hadn't read. (This is the first "traditional" book I've read in 7 months. I found it hard at first to adjust back to real paper from the virtual grayscale paper of my ereader. )

Lessons in Heartbreak weaves together the stories of Izzie, Anneliese, and Lily -- three characters related by family ties, each representative of a different generation. This is a more sombre book for Kelly as it deals with the issue of infidelity from several points of view. Izzie is Lily's granddaughter who lives in New York where she works for a modeling agency. She is involved in a relationship with a wealthy businessman who is "mentally separated" from his wife. She learns that her grandmother, Lily, has suffered a stroke back at home in Tamarin, Ireland and travels home to be at her side. Izzie's aunt, the long depressed Annaliese, uncovers the shocking truth of her 30+ year marriage around the same time. But I was most intrigued by Lily's storyline. The ailing 90 year old's past is slowly unraveled as the story progresses and we are taken back to wartime London where Lily trains to be a nurse, survives the bombing raids and indignities of class distinctions of that era.

I really liked that this was not a happy endings type of novel. And I never say that... I love happy endings. However, extramarital affairs by their nature cannot have fairy tale endings. Everyone gets hurt. In this novel, the characters all come to a sense of closure and in a sense there is more peace and contentment than "happily ever after."

Kelly writes with an interesting twist. One might expect Lily to narrate her own story, but she doesn't. Also, I loved how the prologue returns in the book.. not what I was expecting. Well, I didn't want to give away too many spoilers, but I definitely would recommend this story.

Now, if you're looking for a funny story by a British writer than I'd suggest reading anything by Catherine Alliott. I stumbled across Alliott's work in a local bookstore a few years back. With few expectations I dove into The Real Thing and then read Rosie Meadows Regrets. Hysterical, I mean hysterical. I laughed out loud, snorting, belly jiggling, hiccuping type laughter ... all the way through these two. The scene in The Real Thing where Tessa arrives at the summer house... classic! For anyone with young children, you will so get this. And Rosie Meadows, well, I needed oxygen to get through this. As my friend Lynda would say, TOO FUNNY!! I haven't read all of Alliott's work yet, sometimes its nice to save a few stories to savour over a holiday or weekend away. So, this Christmas, before I start my 26 books initiative, I'd like to read The Old-Girl Network, just for the laughs.


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