Once the pages of Peter Murphy's novel, Lagan Love, was opened I was instantly swept into Dublin, Ireland. Lagan Love centers around a group of people who are just beginning to find themselves. Aidan charges (or more aptly drunkenly stumbles) into the novel as Dublin's fresh young poet, dubbed as the voice of Ireland's conscience. Janice, a young women from Toronto, has moved to Dublin to study at the prestigious Trinity School. As Janice immerses herself in the new culture she also finds herself on a journey of self-discovery. After finding herself in a somewhat shaky relationship with Aidan, Janice decides to follow the path of becoming an artist. Mix in Gwen, Aidan's mysterious and other worldly editor, and you find yourself in the middle of Murphy's intoxicating tale of love, heart ache, and the cost of making your dreams a reality.
Murphy does a fine job in painting his 1980's Ireland as a place filled with class, socioeconomic, and religious strife. It doesn't take long to see that many characters in Lagan Love are disenchanted with many of the European countries, England being at the top of the list. Many of the characters are prejudice and have no problem throwing around racial remarks involving those in other social classes, of a different faith, or from a different country. This all seemed very realistic to me. However, Murphy also showed his Dubliners as a proud people, who didn't forget history and spoke of it frequently.
The characters in Lagan Love frequently spend their mornings, afternoons, and evenings in pubs drinking, smoking, gossiping, complaining, and speaking about about their times growing up. Murphy makes the pub a familiar place where everybody knows everyone and their business. The Cheers song, "Where everybody knows your name" comes to mind while following the characters from pub to pub.
Religion also plays a role in Murphy's novel. While reading I definitely felt the tension between the Protestants and Catholics. Murphy does a great job in showing what turmoil in the Catholic church can do to men and women in their own homes.
While I enjoyed Lagan Love, it took me a few chapters to get my footing. At times I felt there was too much history and 'sightseeing' being written about, which took away from the characters and their journey. It also took me a while to adjust to the Irish vernacular, however it did make the novel that much more realistic.
I enjoyed watching the character dynamics unfold between Janice and Aidan. When Janice met Aidan she was a shy, self conscious girl. Throughout the novel she evolved into a self confident, daring women. However, Aidan stayed much the same. The novel started showing him as an unhappy, egocentric character and ended much the same. Murphy makes the case that both Janice's evolution and Aidan's stalemate could be linked to Gwen.
I definitely recommend Lagan Love, Peter Murphy's first novel. I look forward to reading more literary work from him.
~Candace Lybarger, Reviewer for Bookpleasures
*I received Lagan Love as a complimentary book from The Fiction Studio through Bookpleasures for this review*