The Seven Swiney Sisters of Harristown, Ireland, thrillingly rise from starvation to stardom.
Raised on barely boiled potatoes and tales of their sailor father—whose unpredictable nocturnal visits are witnessed only by their mother, whom they do not entirely believe—the Swiney girls are blessed with fantastic rivers of hair, cascading below their knees and ranging in color from honey gold to copper red to the deepest black. They divide themselves into two tribes, each headed by one of the incessantly squabbling twins, Berenice and Enda. Redheaded, wry (and increasingly suspicious) Manticory, who narrates the saga, sides with Enda; the eldest sister, raven-tressed Darcy, is far too busy bullying everyone to join either tribe. After Manticory is nearly assaulted by a hair-obsessed maniac, Darcy conceives a plan to free the girls from poverty: The sisters devise a vaudeville show (using cleverly penned scripts by Manticory) filled with maudlin songs and hair-oriented skits. The finale features the sisters simply letting down their prodigious locks, to the delight of hair fetishists, hair-remedy quacks and neglected housewives. Under Darcy’s domineering supervision, the show is wildly successful. Soon enough, though, unscrupulous men manage to manipulate the young women financially and romantically. As if avoiding scandals and negotiating the perils of notoriety weren’t enough, Manticory begins to have doubts about the products they hawk, Darcy’s fiscal shenanigans and the mysterious small grave in the backyard of their Harristown home. Based on the true story of the Sutherland Sisters (whose own celebrity crashed after lavish spending sprees), Lovric’s (Book of Human Skin, 2011, etc.) tale is lush with delightful Irish rhythms and memorable characters, including Darcy’s childhood nemesis, Eileen O’Reilly, who longs to be part of the raucous Swiney clan but must settle for elaborate verbal combat.
A dazzling, sometimes-lurid yet always lively adventure, indeed.