The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

My apologies for the long gap between reviews, but technology has not been my friend of late! My lap top closed just before I saved this review, so I’m trying to type it on my ancient kindle fire.

I looked forward to June’s recommended fiction read from Waterstones, because I’ve enjoyed the books chosen in the previous five months! Each book that has been chosen has been very different and often taken me to new authors I would never have read. So the decision to undertake this chllenge has been a rewarding one.

Sadly The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien didn’t work for me! I guess there was always going to be a point when one of the books they choose, failed to grab me. It’s not a bad book, many reviewers have loved it. Reading is a very personal experience and what works for one reader, simply doesn’t work for the next. In this novel O’Brien takes us on a journey to a sleepy Irish village into which comes a war criminal hiding from justice by masquerading as a healer. Attracted to him by her desperate need for a child is Fidelma, a women for whom life seems empty of purpose.

For me, the idea of taking the horrors that occurred in the Balkans and joining it with Fidelma story simply did neither story the justice it deserved. The writer touches on the horrors of this war in the title and within its pages, but largely avoids overloading the reader with sickening details. I do feel it’s only fair to say there is one scene that is deeply upsetting and it sticks with you long after the book is finished.

For me Fidelma felt too insubstantial a character to carry her part of the story, while Vlad seemed to lack the darkness and charismatic personality needed for an entire village to fall under his spell. The horrific back story of the Balkans, could have worked as symbol of a shattered chaotic world controlled by evil, with Ireland as the possibility of redemption and new beginnings, but for some reason it all felt too at odds. The one so horrific, that Fidelma needed to be a more substantial character to make me feel her story balanced it out and had equal power to carry the story to what felt to me to be a unsatisfying ending. It was all just a little too contrived for me.

Bit this was just my reaction to the book, many others felt differently. If you have read it, did you enjoy it?

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