Ghost Light

Written by Joseph O’Connor
Review by Cathy Kemp

An elderly woman, living alone in rented accommodation in a dilapidated tenement, would seem an unlikely character to engage the reader for the length of this book, especially when the story emerges over the course of only one day. She is no ordinary lady, as her name is Molly Allgood (aka Miss O’Neill), former leading light on the stages of Dublin, London, New York and San Francisco. Her past contains links with the eminent playwright, J.M. Synge, with whom she had an intense and turbulent affair in the last year of his life.

Through the course of the day, Molly revisits in her thoughts the many scenes of her life which hold significance for her. The reader becomes absorbed as the tale unfolds, though the compassion felt for our heroine is tempered by frustration at her actions at times. The encounters of the day around a variety of her beloved haunts expose unfortunate attachments to drugs and alcohol during her lifetime, which has kept her distanced from current circumstances and disrupted close attachments. Her liaison with John Synge at the tender age of 19 appears to have unbalanced her outlook and left a void of regrets which no-one subsequently breached.

Note: Page 97 indicates that ripening barley and masses of wet bluebells appear at the same time of year!