There is always a set of readers who appreciate a stream of consciousness narrative and those who do not. For me personally, I love it. It is a great form of writing and I have always enjoyed it a little more than the other forms. It is with this spark I started reading, “Ghost Light” and was surprised to know that the SOC narrative was used in this one.
Ghost Light is a brilliantly written small book of many wonders on every page. When I say wonders, I am referring to the literary strokes by Joseph O’Connor and I love how he has melded fact with fiction in this captivating love story, the story of Irish playwright J.M. Synge and his lover Molly Allgood, the Irish actress with the stage name of Maire O’Neill.
The novel opens in a dodgy London boarding house in a shady neighbourhood of 1952, where an older Molly is reviewing and revisiting her past with Synge. She lives alone expect for the ghostly presence of her dead-lover and so begins her story. The stream of consciousness voice of Molly (you are sixty-five now) keeps changing from second to third person narrative (as the years in which the novel is set changes from 1905 to 1952 and back and forth) which adds the much needed flexibility to the novel and also at the same time distances the reader from the characters and read the novel in a more objective manner.
The book is full of Irish references – poems, plays, songs and the landscape. As a reader you can almost imagine what is taking place and how. Young Molly has a brilliant narrative and it is interesting to note how it emerges to be what it is in her old age, from the robust and lively girl who falls for an older man. The plot further moves to letting the readers know that how Molly and John had to keep their affair a secret and the measures taken to ensure that their love was not found out by anyone.
What O’Connor also does is brings to forth the fact that in the good old days of 1905, it was very risqué of women to act in a play and Molly but of course was an actor, which is another interesting angle to the book. The book has several parts which are real and the rest are fiction according to the writer. Mr. O’Connor grew up next to the Synge house and the novel is a result of this fascination.
The novel like I said is not for everyone. Only if you think you have the patience for this kind of narrative and structure then you should pick it up, mainly because of the writing. Having said that, the novel has great structure and a grand scope that any reader will immediately take to. The love story is poignant and touches the right chords of the heart. The sense of place is vivid, which is what is expected in a book like this one. Last but not the least the book is truly mesmerizing. A must read.