Book Reviews by Sally Desmond – Dec '08
Friday, 20 March 2009 06:42
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Boat People
Author: Maurice Whelan
Publisher: Ginninderra Press

boat peopleBecause we have preconceived ideas of what constitutes a ‘boat person’ I automatically assumed that this book was about the refugees that landed on Australian shores over the last few decades. Surprisingly, Maurice Whelan’s book starts in Ireland in the years prior to the famine, when forthcoming events seemed to be blowing in the wind. It traces the struggle to stay on land that wasn’t big enough to feed families and ultimately the failure of the potato crops. We follow the Donovan family and their agonising decision to leave Ireland and head for Australia. We get to know Michael and Catherine and their children, especially Aoife and we sail with them into New South Wales. Their faith, tenacity and love of family fills them with optimism and hope for their new land.

The second part of the book is a hundred years on and we meet the Salim family, Middle Eastern refugees, who end up at the Bryan Creek Detention Centre. This too, is a family bound together by faith, love and tenacity and in the person of Yousef, their son, we learn much about their happiness before the winds of change blew in their land.

Maurice Whelan cleverly connects the family of the Salims with the descendants of the Donovans and very rightly makes the case that we are, in the end, all ‘Boat People’. He tells a good story, well written and thought provoking.Maurice was born in 1949 and grew up in Co. Laois and attended CBS Secondary School at Athy, Co. Kildare. He worked in London as a Social Worker and came to nonfiction books on education and psychoanalysis.

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Home Before Dark
Author: Charles McLean
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

home before darkI love a good ‘Whodunnit’. This, in actual fact, is not along the lines I most like to read – a comfortable dead body, plenty of family intrigue, and a clever solution that I hadn’t seen coming. This book is scary, fast moving and once started unputdownable, it is creepy and unpredictable and we know that a ghastly psychopath called ‘Ward’ is the killer – or is he? To quote the Bard “That’s the rub” nothing is as it seems, everything has a jellylike quality and you just have to keep turning the pages. Ed Lister is the narrator who sets out to find his daughter’s killer.

Sophie has been murdered while studying in Florence and there is no peace to be had for Ed Lister until he finds why and who. Ed, in reality is really not a very reliable character himself and as one follows the winding trail of his investigations it becomes obvious that a goodly percentage of the world population spends a lot of time in cyber space. Charles McLean has written a truly modern thriller, in fact, a cyber thriller as Ed Lister spends a fair bit of his time emailing and, horror of horrors being stalked on email. It has made me resolutely opposed to ever having a computer anywhere in my house ever again. I could never sleep. If you want to scare anyone witless for Christmas give them this, but also remember that I am easily scared.

It is a jolly good read. Charles McLean is the 16th Captain and Keeper of Dunconnel in the Isles of the Sea and the producer of ‘The MacPhunn’ single malt whiskey – a goodly occupation for any man. His father, Fitzroy McLean was said to be the model for Ian Fleming’s James Bond.

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Heart and Soul
Author: Maeve Binchy
Publisher: Orion

heart and soulWhat would Christmas be without Maeve? Not the same certainly. Try as they might, and heaven knows hundreds have tried, nobody gets it quite as right as Maeve Binchy. Just when you think you have had enough and that she should perhaps give it away, out pops another one and again you are enthralled.

She gets the feelings, the language, and the cadences of the Irish just so right that it is like putting on your favourite sweater and curling up in a corner of the sofa. This is not to say that you don’t suffer with Clara Casey and Brian Flynn in this book, you do, indeed you do. The supporting cast of hundreds is equally interesting and I do not intend to give away the plot except to say it is nice to spend Christmas with friends and Maeve Binchy comes up with some gems at times, like Frank Ennis’s opinion of ‘Plain Clothes Nuns’ – delicious. Buy it for someone with an Irish sense of wisdom and humour and also put it on your own Christmas List.

There is nothing I can say about Maeve Binchy’s latest that wouldn’t be gilding the lily.

Last Updated ( Friday, 20 March 2009 06:54 )