Monday, May 11, 2015

The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart

I struggled to get through this books at times, but there were parts I liked enough to keep on going and I'm not sorry I read it though it would not be the first book I recommend you pick up.  Essentially the book tells three stories - and moves back and forth between them.

We start with Tam, an English woman who has been living in Ireland since just after World War II and is now fleeing an affair she had there.  She is flying from Dublin to New York and, after stopping in Gander to refuel, is grounded by fog.  As she sits in the waiting room she reflects on her past - a privileged childhood, a hasty marriage at a young age, flying planes during the War, another relationship with a childhood friend (and servant's son) which takes her to Ireland, and then finally the ill-fated extra marital affair with Niall.

As she reminisces she also studies a large mural that covers the walls in the airport lounge.  The second story we hear is that of the artist.  He reflects on his past and we learn how the various characters in the mural came into being.  Frankly, I was bored by this part of the book and didn't really think it added much to the main narrative.  Though maybe I just missed some deeper meaning.

Finally we learn about Niall's childhood and in particular his difficult relationship with his younger brother Kieran who he has lost touch with and has been searching for.  The story of Niall's, and especially Kieran's, childhood was for me the most interesting part of the book.  They grew up in a small town in Ireland.  When their mother dies tragically, Kieran is taken in by a widowed countrywoman and lives a very different life from his brother.  Unbeknownst to each other they both train for a rigorous bicycle race and become fierce competitors - for the title and the same woman.  The book ends with us finding out what caused the rift between the brothers.

As I said, parts of this were very slow and in my view unnecessary, but other parts were quite exciting.  I was very drawn into the bike race and the sibling rivalry it unleashed.  Because I have a trip planned to Ireland, I also enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the Irish countryside.

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