This is an interesting book as it defies the commonly promulgated idea that we don't know, or care about, or neighbors in London. My personal experience is that this is not true. In hondon, we live in small communities, towns if you will, where, when you walk out the shop owners know you, the station staff recognise you, and you always bump into, and talk with, a neighbor. True, you need to smile and say 'Hello' first and maybe join in a community activity, of which there will be lots to choose from. Not so in Commuter Land. I lived there for 19 years and barely knew nextdoor. Here in London I know lots of people & even have had drinks with the people upstairs. That said, this is a warm story, almost sentimental, with a young person befriending the grouchy neighbor below stairs, and as such helping her turn her life around.
The ‘good’ man is very ill with cancer, and in his illness he is attended by his family – in good Irish fashion. He has cancer and has only months to live so they are gathered – his daughters, one by second marriage and one by the first are there to look after him. The husband and baby of the second daughter are there too as the baby is still being breast fed; and the sister arrives from England. All to say the last things they needed to him before…
But it is not a happy family.
In good traditional Irish family sagas there are dark secrets and they start to ooze out – and then he dies, and the police come calling and more emerge from the dark Irish boglands it seems. The text feels like you are wandering in a dark misty bog, where there is no solidity to your footsteps – the foreboding that there is something really wrong oozes from the book in a delightful fashion.
This is not a book to read if you want to be cheered up. This is a book that re-emphasised for me, the insidiousness of the way the Roman Catholic church offers forgiveness and sanctuary in return for a few prayers, no matter how heartfelt they are, your sins are forgiven if you only tell the priest in confession. Well I don’t believe that. It gives people too easy a way out of their deeds. And yes, our ‘good’ man had many sins to be forgiven and he thought becoming religious in his older age would help…
The style has the right quality for a book with this storyline and draws you in, and the characterisation is well done.
Oh what a mother! Seriously needs to be told to get a life – for herself – get a hobby, look after her husband’s health and butt out of her daughter’s life.
That said, despite the well written mother’s character, the whole story never grabbed me. It seemed to meander along gradually coming to an end with no great reveal, no drama and no real emotional empathy.
It needs humour and editing to become a sharper piece of writing. For me, the ‘bleakness’ never really felt true. A cosy story that lacked originality and intensity