This afternoon I sat out in the sunshine and met 'Our Woman'.
Our Woman is the lead character in Anakana Schofield's debut novel Malarky which was published in the UK by Oneworld Publications at the beginning of August.
The cover of this novel is scattered with praising comments from well-known and much-loved authors such as Emma Donoghue and Margaret Atwood. The paperback version is beautifully presented, with almost childlike illustrations that on closer inspection, are perfectly suited to the story within.
Malarky is not an easy read by any means, although it is a short novel at just over 200 pages. The story is set out in episodes, rather than chapters and although the setting is modern-day Ireland, Our Woman has a very traditional and distinctly regional thought process that is echoed in her speech (or thoughts as is usually the case during the story). The episodes are often short, and sometimes change quickly in tense and voice, which at times can be challenging to the reader. I was able to read the whole novel in two sittings and I personally think that this would be the best way to tackle Malarky, immerse yourself in the world of Our Woman.
Obsession, psychosis and sex - these are the three main themes that I took from this story. Our Woman is obsessed with her husband, her son, and what her circle of friends may be thinking of her. The issues of sexuality and infidelity feature heavily and the psychotic episodes have a strange, sad, sometimes humorous tinge to them.
A lonely farmer's wife, in rural Ireland. Dealing with homosexuality and betrayal - then grief. This is an unusual novel, it's quirky and a little off-the-wall. It's also beautifully written, honest, often startling and sometimes uncomfortable. It's clever, maybe sometimes a little too clever - a little prior knowledge of Catholic Ireland, history and folklore does help.
Certainly a novel that will make people talk, some will love it, I have no doubt that some will not. Me? I liked it very much.
Anakana Schofield is an Anglo-Irish writer of fiction, essays and literary criticism. Malarky, her first novel, won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, was selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, and was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. It has also been named on sixteen different Best Books of the Year lists.
For more information about Anakana Schofield, visit her website at www.anakanaschofield.com, or follow her on Twitter