last year marked the centenary of the death of Michael Collins, who was assassinated on his journey from
Bandon to Cork in 1922. Collins was a soldier, revolutionary and politician who was a leading figure in
the battle for Irish independence. As an Englishwoman, I am sorry to say I had never heard of him until I
moved to Ireland. In English schools we are never taught any Irish, Scottish or Welsh history in a kind of
airbrushing of our past. I was equally surprised when I arrived to find that abortion was illegal in Ireland
and in fact contraception and the morning after pill were not widely available depending on the moral
stance of your GP or your access to women’s health centres.
In 1983 the 8th Amendment guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn foetus became the law so that only
where the life of the mother was in danger was abortion available. This forced those women seeking this option to travel to the UK or attend back street abortion clinics. The 8th Amendment was successfully repealed in 2018 after passionate and
sometimes acrimonious campaigns for and against. Ireland now prides itself as a liberal thinking country,
being the first to recognise gay marriages , although homosexuality was only made legal in 1993.
These differing threads come together in our second book review of the month. Its ‘Dolly Considine’s Hotel‘, by Eamon Somers and published in 2019 by Unbound (www.unbound.com)
It is 1983 and the battle is being fought to stop or allow the Pro –Life constitutional amendment. Dolly Considine
runs a late-night drinking establishment catering to the needs of thirsty politicians and theatricals in
Dublin’s legendary Catacombs. Paddy Butler arrives here under false pretences, representing himself as
someone else and using the name Julian Ryder. He’s an aspiring writer and needs a place to lie low from
his bullying older brother, who is soon to return from the UK. He becomes the hotel’s new lounge boy, gathering gossip, sharing the guest’s beds and using the place as fodder for his writings. Fantasy and reality soon begin to blur.
The story moves between 1983 and the 1950’s of Dolly’s youth, weaving the stories of multiple
characters into Julian’s fiction, Dolly’s secrets, party politics and the amendment debate. I struggled with
the number of threads and the movement backwards and forwards through time. I found Julian/ Paddy to
be not a particularly likable character, which is something I struggle with, my own failing , when I’m then
required to sustain commitment to a such a long book. Fortunately, I found several of the other
characters more engaging, including Dolly herself and Brendan the bully. The Chapters with Brendan’s
childhood story were very poignant and I looked forward to finding out more about him.
Personally I found the broad scope of this novel a little overwhelming, maybe because I am unfamiliar
with any of the history and couldn’t therefore assess the authenticity of the settings and story. It reminded
me a little of Ulysees and I’d expect that Joyceans would enjoy this more modern offering with its vivid
mix of characters , drama and politics.
This Irish Author Eamon Somers ( http://www.eamonsomers.com ) debut novel. He began his lifelong interest in learning about storytelling with classes at the People’s College in 1970s Dublin, before going on to study at London’s Goldsmiths and later Birkbeck College, attending summer schools at the Irish Writers’ Centre, and more joining masterclasses with admired American poet Diana Goetsch (via Paragraph Workspace in NY).
Eamon’s short stories have been published in literary magazines including Tees Valley Writer, Automatic Pilot, and Chroma. The Journal of Truth and Consequences nominated his Fear of Landing for a Pushcart Prize, and Nataí Bocht was included in Quare Fellas, a collection of LGBT+ fiction published by Basement Press in Ireland. He is currently working on revisions to his novel A Very Foolish Dream (Working Title) which was Highly Commended in the 2019 Novel Fair sponsored by the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin.
With St. Patricks Day only a fortnight away. This is certainly a book that would appeal to readers with an interest in the vast social changes Ireland has undergone in this period of many centenaries marking the period since the fight for independence
but I felt I would have enjoyed some of the threads unravelled and perused in their own right. Opinions
will of course differ and this is a book that will promote discussion amongst book groups and friends who
enjoy a meaty read.
Reviewed by Georgina Murphy