The Graces

Written by Siobhan MacGowan
Review by Marilyn Pemberton

1918. Mount St Kilian Abbey, Dublin. Brother Thomas is visited by Father Sheridan, who has come to speak to him about Rosaleen Moore, revered at the abbey as “the Rose”. Father Sheridan explains that he had heard Rosaleen’s dying confession three years earlier.

Father Sheridan then proceeds to relate the confession of Rosaleen as if it is Rosaleen speaking. She tells how she had to leave her family in Clare because she was ostracised for ‘seeing’, for having been touched by the Graces. She goes to live with her Aunt Ellen in a guest house in Dublin and is attracted to Lorcan Mulhern, a resident. He invites her to attend a meeting run by Mairéad Kinsella, who is an ardent follower of Dr Franz Mesmer. Rosaleen finds herself being revered by the group, and she soon begins to believe in her own powers of faith healing, of mesmerism. Until, that is, the healing of a young girl goes tragically wrong.

Towards the end of her short life, Rosaleen regains her powers of ‘seeing’, and her final prophecy of the destruction of the city during Easter Week 1916 elevates her to the divine, one worthy of homage.

My main problem with this book is that Rosaleen’s story is told through the voice of her confessor. I found that I was totally disengaged from her; after all, she had been dead for three years. In addition, interspersed with her first-person story are small sections telling of the actions of other characters, which neither Rosaleen nor the Father could possibly have known about.

The topics covered by this well-written book – mesmerism, faith, guilt, prejudice, sacrifice and love – could have made an exciting novel, but I just found that the method of telling through the voices of men who are not involved didn’t excite me at all.