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Thread: Edna O'Brien: The Little Red Chairs

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Utrecht, the Netherlands

    Ireland Edna O'Brien: The Little Red Chairs

    On the first few pages, a mysterious and charismatic alternative healer arrives in a sleepy Irish village. The rest of the book unfolds around the impact this event has on some of the inhabitants of this village, most notably on the main character Fidelma. Before long, the stranger turns out to be one of Europe’s most wanted war criminals (modelled after Radovan Karadzic), but by the time the villagers get to know his true identity the damage has already been done.

    After finishing the book, I am left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the story is fascinating and O’Brien easily managed to keep my attention throughout the whole book, even though I was horrified at times by the atrocities described. Also, she uses some beautiful imagery and symbols that are really well found. One example is the way she describes the lightning struck tree towards the end of part II, which is clearly a parallel with Fidelma’s life. I could clearly see the hand of an experienced and creative writer in it.

    On the other hand, I found the book rather messy. O’Brien keeps introducing so many people that I had a hard time keeping the overview of who was who. Especially in the second part: a coming and going of flat characters that do not play any further role in the last part of the book or in the plot. Typically a mistake an inexperienced writer would make, but lack of experience is the last thing you can accuse Edna O’Brien of. So maybe this multitude of individuals serves some kind of purpose. If it does, I missed it.

    Lastly, the book initially took away some of my self-confidence in reading novels in English. I had to look up words all the time. I was wondering if this was due to O’Brien being Irish, or to her being on older writer, or was it just that my English was deteriorating. Now I understand that a lot of the words I did not know was slang language. That also explains why Google translate did not always know how to make sense of it. In sum: fascinating story, told in a somewhat disorganized way.
    Last edited by peter_d; 10-Jul-2017 at 13:25.

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