19 Books to Read In April
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O'Brien takes up her signature themes—close-knit communities, love/hate for the homeland, the plight of women, loss and desire, victimhood, romantic love—and casts their compassionate reach far beyond Ireland. Frequent switches of tense and vignettes that start midaction create a sense that characters exist beyond the page. Populated by many memorable voices, the work feels loose and textural, both all-encompassing and personal. It asks the kinds of questions only a novel could dare; like a great novel must, it leaves many of them unanswered.
Toward the end, Fidelma's landlord says of his wife, who has committed suicide: "We don't know others...especially those we are most intimate with, because habit blurs us and hope blinds us to the truth." The observation rings true, and yet the hallmark of literature is that it shows what it feels like to be not ourselves, to look at the world through another's eyes. As in The Little Red Chairs, it picks a singular face from the masses and creates something indelible.