Review published on April 26, 2018.
Last year saw the release of one of the breakthrough Irish books of 2017, Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling, which is published in the UK in May 2018. Responses to the book’s initial release were overwhelmingly positive, and in February it was announced that Element Pictures will be bringing the novel to the big screen, so given this rapturous success, I was eager to take a read for myself and it’s clear that debut novelists Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen have hit on a winning formula, in large part due to their eponymous creation, Aisling.
The twenty-eight-year-old heroine is a deft and canny creation, just the right balance of naïve and unsophisticated to come across as warm and charming, rather than laughable and annoying. She is the normal, everywoman, Irish country girl next door, and I imagine all female readers will see something of themselves in some aspect of Aisling. What McLysaght and Breen do so well is give Aisling her own voice, which you can genuinely hear as you read, and this is fundamental to bringing Aisling’s character to life. The Irish landscape and vernacular are brilliantly recreated too, and there’s a real sense of place and identity to Aisling and the wider novel, which is really impressive.
The novel follows a fairly predictable story arc, charting Aisling’s highs and lows in love, work, family and friendship, and there’s nothing especially breathtaking or inventive about the narrative, but the character of Aisling ensures it remains engaging and entertaining. Despite the novel being generally fun and light-hearted, there is gravity to the story too, especially in the final quarter, and I did feel that this dramatically changed the tone of the novel. Whilst such moments inevitably seek to render the ‘real life’ events of characters such as Aisling, for me they altered the mood and emphasis of the novel too much and I felt the book was strong enough as it was and excelled in being an upbeat, entertaining read. Having said this, the majority of the novel is witty and lively and makes for a brilliantly enjoyable read. And without a doubt the character of Aisling is an absolute triumph. She comes alive in the pages of this book, which is huge testament to the authors, and I imagine she will have even greater success when realised on screen.
Jade Craddock 4/4
Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
Michael Joseph 9780241361726 hbk May 2018
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