Monday, 28 September 2015

Book Review: 'My Buried Life' by Doreen Finn.



I received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review...

Eva returns home to Dublin, to bury her mother.  The years away have not dulled her memories and she finds herself back in the darkness of her previous life.  Alcohol may numb the pain, for a short duration, but the misery envelopes her and there are ripples of a painful past in every corner of her childhood home.  A bitter break up, a bad case of writer's block and a daily battle with booze.  All these things are like a noose around her neck and she wonders what her future holds.  Two very different men enter her life, neither invited but both welcome in their own way.  Can the shadows of her past be chased away or are they destined to cloud over her forever?

This debut novel is striking in its honesty.  Not all middle class, well-educated children grow up with a sense of purpose.  Some are crippled with insecurity and have no idea what shape their lives will take.  Eva is lucky enough to be a functioning alcoholic, albeit with a distinct lack of family or friends.  Her return to Ireland is not one of fond memories and jovial reunions.  It very well may be the unravelling of her.  The recollections of a lonely childhood are intense and unsettling.  She recalls her loneliness and how her mother never seemed to acknowledge her presence.

 "Being ignored is merely a substitute, a fatigued person's bullying". 

Unlike many Irish novels of our time, Doreen Finn observes the insular vibe of the Irish community and their morbid fascination with funerals. 

 "Irish people love death, though, and its offshoots: removals, wakes, Masses, flowers and cards, not to mention the funerals themselves.  Nowhere else would people travel great distances, take time off work, rearrange entire days because someone has died.  In New York, invitations are issued to funerals.  There is no question of merely turning up at the church.  Americans aren't interested in death the way Irish people are.  They don't drive for hours to attend a removal, or wonder who will tend their grave when they themselves are gone.[...] Funerals are bigger than Christmas here, and they last almost as long."

  The prose surrounding the atmosphere of Eva's claustrophobic environs is stunning.  Equal measures of inadequacy, frustration and addictive despair are spread throughout the pages.  The lack of faith in herself and her decision making are profound and real.  She lingers on the threshold on relationships, unsure of whether to trust her own judgment or just presume the worst in each scenario presented to her.  She blames her mother for her inabilities to form lasting friendships, to take root in any one place.  As Phillip Larkin said, "They fuck you up, your  Mum and Dad.  They may not mean to, but they do."  As the novel progresses, at a gentle pace, Eva becomes more astute, more aware of her limitations and even allows trust to enter her life.  The resulting narrative is powerful.  It allows a glimpse at how a subtle change in mindset can let in enough light to cast a new perspective on ones present and future, rather than concentrating on the shaded areas of the past.  This is a wonderful debut.  One that lingers, without melodrama.  The story of one woman, among many, who chooses to try again...
Highly recommended. 

My Buried Life is published by New Island Books and is available in paperback and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 15% discount, here.  The ebook version can be ordered via amazon link below:

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