Can anyone really choose to be forgotten?
An elderly gentleman checks into a B&B in a small village in rural Ireland where he knows nobody. Four days later, his body is found in the lake.
The identity of their unknown guest raises questions for one family in particular, twin sisters Liv and Marianne, and their mother, Ethel, each of whom is searching for her own place in the world.
The Ghostlights brilliantly evokes the lives of the people in the town and explores the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy. What is identity? And strangerhood? What is the meaning of home, and what power do we have over whether or not we are remembered?
The last eighteen months have been difficult but one shining light has been the emergence of some very fine Irish authors, Murphy part of that clan.
A small Irish Town, and a family of strong determined women would always be a win win for me. Ethel, the matriarch, owner of their Bed and Breakfast yet doing a great job at falling apart. Any excuse to visit the local pub, drunken nights spent sleeping in nearby fields or the beach which at first seemed humorous but then sad.
Liv and Marianne, twins, stubborn, determined, their life paths so completely different which Murphy used to great effect, their clashes full of anger, and recriminations.
Liv was the one that stayed behind, ran the B&B, dealt or rather swept her mothers alcoholism under the carpet and somehow failed to understand her son Shay.
Marianne, the twin who fled after the death of their father, hellbent on a different life. Yet Murphy showed a woman who felt left out, blinkered to the real issues of her family, her love life at a crossroads.
For good measure Murphy gave us Fred the elderly guest, at first passing encounters, before a sad end in the local lake. He was, Murphy’s catalyst, the one that opened the floodgates to self examination, to home truths, and a search for a man’s family. Was what Liv, Marianne and Ethel currently had what they really wanted? What about their actions toward one another, their closeness as a family.
Murphy brilliantly unraveled it all and made it all the more gripping and interesting in her use of the characters own voices. Their assumptions of one another, their misreading of situations all keenly realised. You felt their frustration, in fact it made me quite frustrated at times when I too wanted to scream at them to just talk to each other.
When they did start to talk Murphy didn’t go down the tried and tested, let’s all be happy route. She made you realise that talking was the first step, that time would be the one thing that would bond and bring the family back together. It would never be all hearts and flowers, it would still have its issues, but there would be greater respect, not only of each other but also of events and circumstances around them.
I admired Murphy’s narrative the emotion she injected from anger to despair always driving her characters actions and thoughts. The Irish landscape, the small town mentality were seamlessly interwoven, the modern with traditional, the clash of rural versus city ideas and influences. Above all it was her characters that shone , that made The Ghostlights a most wonderful and exemplary novel.
I would like to thank Legend Press of a copy of The Ghostlights to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Gráinne Murphy grew up in rural west Cork, Ireland. At university she studied Applied Psychology and forensic research, then worked for a number of years in Human Resources. In 2011 she moved with her family to Brussels, where she lived for 5 years. She has now returned to West Cork, working as a self-employed language editor specialising in human rights and environmental issues. Gráinne has received a number of award shortlistings and longlistings for her writing including the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair Award 2019, Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award 2019, Caledonia Novel Award 2019, Virginia Prize for Fiction 2013 and the Bath Novel Award 2015.
Follow Gráinne on: