A woman looks back on her forbidden romance 30 years later.
In 1970s Dublin, the world had not yet changed. Tenants did not dare ask their landladies to repaint their flats; women were not hired as journalists; and priests did not have affairs. Pity poor Louise, then, broke, unemployed and recently abandoned by her priggish English boyfriend. Taking advantage of the free food and wine at a pity lunch paid for by a would-be employer, she drinks way too much and ends up being escorted home by a handsome Canadian monk, Peter, who kisses her goodnight. When he shows up, ostensibly to check on her, they begin the passionate liaison that will set the course of her life. Like their classic predecessors, Héloïse and Abelard, to whom he frequently refers, Peter seeks to educate Louise, an aspiring journalist. Not until tragedy strikes does she smarten up about her life and starts to use contraceptives despite his insistence that doing so compounds their sin. Such pigheaded selfishness is typical of Peter, who treats Louise poorly, blaming her for his lapses and erupting into jealous rages. Only repeated references to his good looks and her newly discovered sexuality explain the ongoing affair. However, it finally helps send her off to a better life, with an unexpected bonus. In graceful, casual prose, Callaghan (Billy, Come Home, 2007, etc.) spins a believable story. But while the author summons ’70s Dublin in telling detail, her Abelard is so bitter and repressed, it’s hard to see the attraction.
A beautiful story of doomed love, marred only by an unlikable main character.