Four Dubliners regret misguided liaisons with a sadistic Irish politico.
Keyes (Anybody Out There, 2006, etc.) displays her trademark uncanny ability to wring humor from clichés in this story of four women whose paths cross with that of handsome Irish party hack Paddy de Courcy. Lola, whose narration hilariously parodies the article and pronoun-challenged diary of Bridget Jones, learns from the press that Paddy, her boyfriend, is engaged to Alicia, a horsey widow respectable enough to be a political helpmeet. Grace, a Dublin tabloid reporter, and her fraternal twin sister Marnie, met Paddy while all three were students working in a Dublin pub. Grace flirted briefly with Paddy before losing him to Marnie. But as his ambitions escalate, Paddy dumps Marnie, leaving her emotionally shell-shocked. Lola, fashion advisor to Dublin’s nouveau riche matrons, had found Paddy’s sexual proclivities increasingly problematic, but she’s so unsettled by his summary betrayal that she flees to a rustic seaside cabin in County Clare, where she becomes reluctant housemother to a growing contingent of transvestites. A brief fling with a surfer helps her weather Paddy’s rejection, but memories of how his kinky sexuality segued into “isolated” acts of physical abuse undermine her struggle to recover her sense of self-worth. Grace learns that Paddy may be behind the seemingly random torching of her sports car, but withholds her full history with him from the reader. She’s more preoccupied with trying to keep Marnie, who until recently lived happily in London with her commodities trader husband Nick and two daughters, from drinking herself to death. The weight of attention devoted to Marnie’s harrowing alcoholic free-fall deemphasizes and defuses the devastating impact of Paddy’s horrendous behavior. The gradual reveal of Paddy’s monstrosity toward the novels’ women, interspersed with the flip entertainment of Lola’s Bridget Jones-speak, generates a jarring unevenness of tone.
Flabby, often implausible plot propelled by original prose.