The last of my posts for Reading Ireland Month this year is going to be about The Closet of Savage Mementos, a truly wonderful novel by Nuala Ní Chonchúir. This is the second of the two novels I was lucky enough to win in one of Cathy‘s marvelous giveaways during the event last year, and I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The Closet of Savage Mementos is a short novel of 190 pages, divided in two parts. One is set in 1991 and the other one is set 20 years later, in 2011. The story follows our main character, Lillis, who, after the death of a person very close to her, decides to leave Dublin and move to Scotland, in hopes of making a fresh start. Little did she know, however, that life is something you can most certainly not run away from.
It is very difficult to talk about this book, for many and various reasons. First of all, it is a book that tackles themes and issues that are delicate for some people, me included. Therefore, reading about death or broken families truly resonated with me, but precisely because the author presented those issues so vividly and Lillis’ emotions were given in such a raw manner, it almost felt like experiencing them along with her.
Also, when I began reading this book, it almost felt like nothing really happened. The writing was beautiful but slow, the plot not very eventful but still enjoyable. However, reaching the middle and end of the book, I came to realise that so many things had in fact occurred in the plot. And this is a great advantage Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s writing has – she presents her characters’ lives to the reader in such a calm and matter-of-fact way that at first I didn’t realise how many things had already happened. And I believe this is exactly how life is. So many things happen in our daily lives but we don’t always realise it until he sit down and think about them. This is exactly what happened to me with this book.
As Gerard Stembridge states in the cover of the book “Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s characters and their relationships have about them that most precious and elusive quality: the ring of truth”. In fact, some of the events in this books were inspired byt the author’s personal experiences.
Despite being short, this book manages to tackle so many themes at once, such as death and grief, family relationships, adoption, human relationships and the unpredictability of life. Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s writing is beautiful and lyrical and she manages to build characters that correspond perfectly to reality. Her characters do good things and they also do bad things but there are no inherently good or bad characters. Lillis was not predominantly good, and her mother or Struan were not predominantly bad. Everyone, as all human beings, have both qualities and there are reasons behind each action.
Overall, I’m very grateful to Cathy for giving me the opportunity to read this marvelous book. It made think, it made cry and it made me laugh. I had an absolutely wonderful time reading it and even though it dealt with some quite “heavy” themes, I daresay it was quite a relaxing read as it didn’t require much effort to get immersed in its world.