Pin-sharp snap­shot of three women and their se­crets

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS - LORRAINE COURT­NEY

start a brand new job with a clean slate; and, with any luck, to move on. She thinks she has burned all her bridges in London and moves to Dublin for a fresh start as an as­sis­tant direc­tor on a pro­duc­tion of Pride and Prej­u­dice.

Nancy finds a house-sit­ting po­si­tion on Prim­rose Square and is ready for a new be­gin­ning but soon learns that her new neigh­bours have their own dra­mas and there’s some­thing about Sam Wil­liams, her land­lord, that doesn’t quite add up.

Sam quickly se­duces her. Nancy loves the way he makes her feel, so she over­looks the truth of their un­healthy at­tach­ment.

Another Prim­rose Square res­i­dent is Su­san Hayes, who is griev­ing for her dead daugh­ter, Ella. She thinks that Ella’s boyfriend was to blame for her over­dose and wants vengeance. Numbed by tran­quil­lis­ers, she stands silently out­side his home at night, even though the guards al­ways ar­rive and move her along. Back home waits Su­san’s other daugh­ter, 12-year-old Melissa, who misses her sis­ter but is des­per­ately try­ing to keep up ap­pear­ances in front of so­cial work­ers and their neigh­bours.

Then there’s 66-year-old wi­dow Jayne Daw­son, at num­ber 19, who knows things are fall­ing apart for Su­san and Melissa. Jayne is lonely her­self, but she has just told her money-grab­bing son Ja­son and his wife about her new on­line male “friend”, age­ing hip­pie Eric.

The book fol­lows th­ese fig­ures through a few months of their lives and of­fers a pin-sharp snap­shot of three women and a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in time.

Their sto­ries pro­pel an en­joy­able, if un­even, page-turner of a novel to its tidy con­clu­sion.

Car­roll is very strong on loss and the mourn­ing process. She gives us a fresh, and hon­est ex­am­i­na­tion of death and griev­ing through Su­san’s jour­nal en­tries, which punc­tu­ate the book.

“I was in­can­des­cent by then,” she writes, “in­co­her­ent with rage and grief. So I took the fight right to Josh An­drews’ doorstep. It was like a mantra with me; I can never for­get what that mur­der­ing bas­tard got you into, I kept say­ing. And so nei­ther will he.”

But there’s also love, hope, friend­ship and hu­mour, and we even get a peek into the world of Dublin theatre, al­though I’d hoped for a bit more in­sight from our ac­tres­sauthor.

With the story told by mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tors, past events and se­crets are re­vealed in grad­ual and, some­times, sur­pris­ing ways. There is so much to love about this book — its de­pic­tion of life’s pain and prob­lems, the search for be­long­ing and how it feels to be a woman and a mother.

FIC­TIONThe Se­crets of Prim­rose Square Clau­dia Car­rollZaf­fre, hard­back, 416 pages, €16

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