All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The O’Hara Affair – Kate Thompson

on August 4, 2010

I stumbled across this quite randomly in Kmart one day, which pleased me. Kate Thompson is an Irish author who has written quite a few ‘chick lit’ books, a lot of which involve primarily, and then secondarily, one of my favourite couples, Deidre O’Dare and Rory McDonagh. Starting with It Means Mischief and kind of concluding with Love Lies Bleeding, Deirdre and Rory have been tortured enough I suppose, as they haven’t appeared in her last 2 books, which have contained new-and-connected characters: The Kinsella Sisters and now The O’Hara Affair.

The O’Hara Affair takes us back to the village of Lissamore from The Kinsella Sisters where a Hollywood movie about Scarlett O’Hara’s father Gerald is being filmed. A lot of the village is involved, be they cast as extras, catering to the massive movie set, involved in production, set design, etc. It’s a big boost to the village in a time of global financial crisis. The crisis is a recurring theme throughout the novel, as everyone is feeling the pinch.

The book primarily concentrates on 3 main female characters: Fleur O’Farrell, who we heard of briefly in The Kinsella Sisters, a French ex-pat who followed her ex-husband to Ireland and stayed. She runs a boutique in Lissamore, stocking beautiful, fashionable, expensive clothing and accessories. She’s also conducting an affair with a (quoting the book) Mr-Big type: rich, dynamic, sexually charged businessman who has sunk mega bucks into the movie.

Second is Dervla Vaughn, nee Kinsella who was a major part of The Kinsella Sisters, being one of the titular characters. She’s now married to wine expert Christian and they’ve bought their dream house which they are quickly running out of money to renovate. No one is buying expensive wine (global financial crisis and all) and Dervla is trying to finish a book she’s been commissioned to write on selling your house. Adding to their problems is Christian’s mother – 85 and in the grips of dementia, she requires constant care. When her carer has two weeks holiday, Christian and Dervla cannot afford to put her into a nursing home, nor does Christian want to, even for the two weeks so Dervla agrees to do the job herself. And boy does she not know what she’s gotten herelf in for.

Thirdly is Bethany O’Brien. Eighteen, shy, lacking in self-confidence but dreaming of being an actress. Used to being ridiculed, particularly for her dreams, Bethany is too timid to do anything about them. She needs a gentle push in the right direction – luckily for her, there’s a fairy godmother about to come into her life.

This book makes use of the world of social networking in a way I haven’t seen outside of a gaggle of teenage girls. Everyone is on facebook and everyone is talking about being on facebook constantly. Bethany joins SecondLife where she  gains more confidence, meeting the wonderful avatar Hero. But is Hero really what he seems? It’s hard to tell in a virtual world. Everyone is fiddling on their blackberries, texting on their latest Nokia’s, snapping pictures with their iPhones. Facebook is used as a tool to gather information on people when Fleur agrees to tell people’s fortunes at the annual Lissamore Village Festival which allows her to “accurately” state things about them.

I take my hat off to Dervla. Although she at first decides to care for her mother-in-law because she thinks it’ll be simple, and allow her to get some work done while Christian is in France and the normal carer is on holidays, she soon finds out that she’s very, very wrong. Daphne, her mother in law, requires constant care with everything. Dervla grits her teeth and gets through it, even though she feels like she’s slowly going insane. It would be an extremely hard job and when she goes to look at prices for care, she’s gobsmacked. 5000 euros a month, which is a lot in anyone’s language. She’s even more depressed by what she sees in the nursing homes – all the residents look as though they’ve one foot in the grave already. Even though Daphne suffers from dementia, she still enjoys life. Dervla is determined that there is a better way. She just has to think about what it is and how to go about it.

This book had really likable parts. The main characters were warm and interesting although I think more time could’ve been spent in Bethany’s voice as most of the time when we were with her, she was hanging around SecondLife waiting for Hero. I would’ve liked a bit more time spent fleshing out her Real Life persona, especially as she gained work on the set of The O’Hara Affair as an extra. Fleur was funny and sensual, although I found it hard to believe that after 20 years in Ireland, she didn’t know what several English phrases are, including ‘a penny for your thoughts’. She must’ve heard that one many many times over the past 20 years, as it’s a very common phrase. That’s a mistake that’s sometimes made with foreign characters, where they either fumble for the correct word in English and use their native one instead (usually with a ‘how do you say?’ thrown in there) or they don’t understand little phrases like that one. That one is really quite self-explanatory. If the author wanted to have her be confused, she could’ve picked a more obscure one.  Dervla was admirable in the way she dealt with a situation she knew nothing about going into, and the patience she acquired in doing it. She may’ve slowly been going insane but the way she was with her mother in law was wonderful. I’m not sure I could’ve showed that in her position. I know several people that worked in aged care and their stories both horrify and sadden me. I freely admit it’s not something I could ever do as a career choice.

Unfortunately there was one event in this book that I really didn’t agree with, personally. And it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth as I regarded it as a betrayal of several characters. It’s a personal moral issue with me, and I felt that my respect for that character diminished after that event. It did detract from my overall liking of the book, but just a little. I thought that it could’ve been better handled, or occurred in a different part of the book and it would’ve been more acceptable.

7/10

We’ve not seen the last of these characters it seems. A character introduced in the last few pages spins off into a main character in the extract from Thompson’s next novel, That Gallagher Girl, due out next year.

(Book #46 of my 50 Book Challenge of 2010)

This book fits in with my Irish Reading Challenge 2010 as it’s both fully set in Ireland and written by an Irish author. This makes book #3 for the year.


2 responses to “The O’Hara Affair – Kate Thompson

  1. Carrie K. says:

    This is a wonderfully in-depth review! I’ve never read any of Thompson’s work – at least, not yet. 🙂 I added a link to your review to the main Ireland Challenge page.

  2. Thank you! If you ever decide to check her out, definitely start with It Means Mischief 🙂

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