Ghost Light

Farrar. Feb. 2011. c.256p. ISBN 9780374161873. $24. F
In theaters during a play, the sole light left burning is called the ghost light. For washed-up actress Molly Allgood, the sole light left burning is the memory of her former lover, the actual touted Irish playwright John Synge; the bulbs of reality and truth have been extinguished. Synge has been dead of cancer for nearly 50 years, so we instead witness a day in the life of Molly as she narrates her journey from a shabby London apartment to the BBC, where (according to her) she's scheduled to perform. But to O'Connor's (Star of the Sea) credit, Molly is unreliability at its best. In fact, her narration is so full of the mirage of success perpetuated by her glowing self-regard that we almost miss the hints of alcoholism and destitution. We are too enamored of her charm and acerbic wit and understand too readily her chronic suffering as reexperienced by her memories of Synge and his angry, prejudiced mother, who kept the lovers apart. Eventually, though, we must abandon feeling and question the logic of Molly's reality. And this—the subtext—is just one of the many pleasures of Ghost Light.
VERDICT Forbidden love, humor, and O'Connor's attention to the sentence highly recommend this. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/10.]
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