THE OUT-HAUL by Alannah Hopkin


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As in Hopkin's first novel (A Joke Goes a Long Way in the Country, 1983), the heroine here is a city girl come to the country--the country being Ireland again, specifically, the wee town of Bally C in Cork, where a young divorc‚e, Celia, plans to take refuge from the grind of London with her married lover, Nick. Nick bows out at the last minute, but Celia ventures on to Bally C alone, burned-out and aimless until she takes up with her landlord, Jimmy Lordon, and therein hangs this tale of girl meets boy. The locale's what distinguishes the story: an Irish village by Roaring Water Bay (where the tidal noise, known as the out-haul, is loud enough to wake the dead). In Bally C, Celia joins a small but select society of outcasts--mostly ""writers, artists, tax exiles""--that makes its headquarters in a convivial pub called Lily's. Alcoholic writer Ben; his bitter consort, a poetess, Clarissa; Ian, a latter-day hippie who's dubbed the trailer where he lives ""Chateau Despair,"" and others keep things interesting for Celia. However, once her friendship with Jimmy, a manly man who's into horse-breeding and accountancy, as well as real estate, turns hot and heavy, the novel becomes a fairly straightforward love story, complicated only by a misunderstanding in which Celia thinks Jimmy's been sleeping with Clarissa and Jimmy figures Celia's been in the sack with Ben. It all gets sorted out with relative ease (it's not a very complicated complication to begin with), leaving the lovers to agree that, ""My God, we've been a right pair of eejits."" Hopkin hasn't done enough with the secondary characters here, leaving the book to devolve into the most unembellished sort of romance. The writing is sometimes effectively atmospheric, but the overall effect is one of slightness and meager entertainment.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles