Edna O'Brien: THE LITTLE RED CHAIRS
Edna O’Brien is in her late 80s and, boy, can she still cut the literary mustard. The Little Red Chairs is very close to a masterpiece, up there with the best of this extraordinary author’s oeuvre. And - short of writing about Trump or Brexit - it’s as contemporary as you can get.
A refugee Balkan ‘faith healer’ sets out his stall in a small village on the Irish coast. The locals fall under his spell, none more so than Fidelma McBride, the draper’s wife, childless and unhappy. Fidelma manages to – almost – keep their affair a secret. But then ‘Doctor Vlad’ is exposed as the exact opposite of what he claims to be. He’s a war criminal, the 'Beast of Bosnia', wanted for trial in The Hague.
Fidelma’s life takes an awful turn after this revelation. I won’t give away any more of the plot, but an agonizing event follows Vlad’s arrest and there’s another grim chapter in a London asylum centre where several refugees narrate their stories, of Bosnia and elsewhere in this ruined world in this ruined time.
|Edna O'Brien, still cutting the literary mustard|
Whether she’s writing of love or of war, O’Brien’s prose fairly dances off the page. This magnificent book possesses a magic of its own, a terrible beauty. The most poignant novel I’ve read in a long time; indeed one of the best ever on the mighty theme of War and Peace.