“The Adulteress” is Noelle Harrison’s fourth novel, and despite its’ shocking title, is a thoughtful and profound treatise on love, loss and infidelity that will have any honest reader empathising rather than judging…set in County Cavan in rural Ireland, the neighbouring county to hers and my home county of Meath, it is enchanting and captivating….THIS REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ANGLO-CELT NEWSPAPER, THE MEATH WEEKENDER, ON V MAGAZINE…and possibly the Meath Chronicle and the Meath Post didn’t follow up on those two! ENJOY…AND GO BUY THE BOOK!
BOOK REVIEW……….”THE ADULTERESS”……….by Noelle Harrison
On Tuesday 8th September Macmillan Books hosted a book launch at Dubray Books on Grafton Street of Noelle Harrison’s 4th novel THE ADULTERESS. A dramatic reading was done of excerpts by Noelle and 2 friends, which was well received by the large gathering. Complimentary drinks were enjoyed by all, and a post launch party was held afterwards in a nearby pub.
I have read Noelle’s previous novels and really enjoyed them, and have seen a play of hers too which was dark and moving and superb. She is a talent indeed, and growing steadily in her role as an author.
This book seems to me like a coming of age in as much as it is perhaps the most autobiographical of her works (in terms of background and setting, not adultery!), and seems cathartic in the writing, leaving me looking forward to her next book!
“The Adulteress”………the title shocked me, living as I do in rural Ireland, and wondering of her reading demographic how many would boldly display the title of their book of choice! However, the book seems to have been written as much for the author herself as a reading public, one feels as if one goes on a journey with her rather than being led by her.
It is like a treatise on love and infidelity, a little like the thesis that so beautifully rounds the book off. Despite starting from an aloof standpoint I found myself drawn in to the familiarity of quandaries of the heart and one felt that her searching was genuine. There was no attempt to patronise the reader, and no finite solution to the question of love and loyalty.
The storylines, beautifully interwoven and spanning generations and cultures (Dublin, Cavan, Devon, London even Italy) were well traced and Noelle Harrison has a skilful ability to create the denouement of her novels in a breath taking way that leaves the reader not wanting to put the book down. In this novel though, this stage of reading came very late on, it felt like it encapsulated the pace of life in rural Ireland interminable in its slowness and yet beautiful like ‘Out of Africa’ if one adapts to the pace.
The exploration of the relationship between daughters and mother, and between the sisters pre eminent in the book, is superb, and perhaps this is where Noelle’s greatest strength lies and is demonstrated over and again in her novels and plays….there was such poignancy sometimes captured just in sentences like, “I felt the sun kissed me when my Mother did not“…and the heart-wrenching realisation too late “Min stops dead in the street, startled by the sudden knowledge that her Mother had been a better woman than her…..She longs for her Mother to explain to her the vagaries of the human heart.” My Mother’s heart hurt at the sentence earlier in this relationship, “in that moment I had never felt as powerful in the presence of my Mother.”
‘The Adulteress’ is not just a woman’s read, and Harrison shows a depth of understanding in the beautiful portrayal of the adored but impotent Father, whose greatest and perhaps only gift to his children was to instil a thirst for knowledge. Her main male characters Nicholas, Robert and Phelim are also skilfully portrayed and I literally burst into tears reading the climactic chapter of Nicholas’s expression of his pain through music. Music, Art and Literature are all used to great effect as metaphors and literal backdrops to the joys and tragedies of human love.
There are some stunning twists to the plotlines and the last third of the book is definitely gripping……….the book starts slowly and the scene setting is perhaps too long, but overall the book is definitely worth the read, and will leave you pondering long after closing the final page, not just on the outcome for the characters, but on how that relates to your own heart and life. There is a universal quality to the questions posed in this book. The honesty is precious, and only one scene of erotic love jarred a little for me, two others were beautiful…. the physical aspect of love is gently exposed with intimacy not fantasy.
A little indulgence crept in in trying to answer for herself the questions so skilfully posed through the various relationships…….talk of ghosts somehow fits and does not beggar belief, but the transition into pondering the possibility of re incarnation seems a bridge too far for most. Harrison’s description of country Catholicism is superb, mixed as it is with superstition and banshees and fairies. My personal belief systems differ substantially from the possibility of re incarnation, but I salute the author in her journey into the fog which perhaps “has the ability to propel mortals into thoughts of another realm beyond their own“……this book poses more questions than answers and that can only be a good thing:
“Adultery has nothing to do with betraying another, for it is an inquisition upon your own heart” Suspend judgement for the time it takes to read this book, it will be a journey worth taking; prepare to experience the gamut of human passion and emotion as you read, albeit at a pace evocative of rural Ireland in all its poignant, painful beauty.
Review by Angie Power-Disney
A published writer and journalist
also resident in Oldcastle, County Meath