Review by Booklist Review
In 1950s London, a drunken, broken-down old woman recalls her passionate love affair with a gifted playwright. O'Connor fictionalizes the real-life relationship between promising young actress Molly Allgood and tortured playwright J.M. Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World. When 18-year-old Molly joins the celebrated Abbey Theater ensemble in 1907, she quickly becomes enamored of the extremely talented but emotionally remote Synge. As the action stretches back and forth between post-WWII London and Edwardian Dublin, the bittersweet disconnect between the vital and passionate Molly of the past and the shuffling survivor of the present is heartrending. Although plenty of poetic license is taken in rendering this rumored love story, the emotional impact of the narrative rings true.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
O'Connor (Redemption Falls) presents a turbulent love story loosely based on the relationship between Irish playwright John Synge and actress Molly Allgood. The story opens in post-WWII London, where Molly is a spinster with a fondness for drink, but through a series of reminiscences the reader learns that, in her youth, she was a promising actress out of the poorer quarters of Dublin. Working in a theater group that included her more talented older sister and W.B. Yeats, Molly soon develops an attraction to the significantly older playwright Synge. She is pugnacious and ambitious, he circumspect and introverted, but the two secretly fall in with one another, and over the course of years they struggle with the differences in their age, class, and religion, and with their respective temperaments and expectations. The voice of old, broken Molly is an impressive creation, and the narrative convincingly plunges the reader into a tumultuous and tender account of a tortured romance, though some of O'Connor's stylistic choices (notably abrupt tense and perspective shifts within Molly's head) impede narrative momentum and yield a reading experience that feels heavy and too hazy. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
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.]-Stephen Morrow, Ohio State Univ., Columbus (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An impassioned tribute to the actress who secretly loved and outlived Irish playwright J.M. Synge.Bestselling Irish author O'Connor (Redemption Falls, 2007, etc.) divides his powerfully imagined, poetic narrative between two eras and cities, Dublin in 1908 and London in 1952. Molly Allgood (stage name Maire O'Neill), central to both, is 65 in the London episode, a half-starved alcoholic dependent on begging, selling off her remaining scraps and a bit of acting to survive. Her salty stream of consciousness is narrated in the second person, lending an additional layer of self-consciousness to the meticulously composed prose. The earlier, third-person Irish sections mix love of landscape with scenes from the unsuitable secret engagement between the beautiful but less well-educated 18-year-old Molly and the older, ailing playwright, a liaison disapproved of on all sides. In Synge's most celebrated yet scandalous play, The Playboy of the Western World, Molly plays her greatest role, Pegeen Mike, "a woman who loves a storyteller and loses him too soon" as Molly does when Synge dies at 37 of Hodgkin's disease. O'Connor's impressionistic, intense style delivers a mismatched love story and a social landscape dominated by forceful characters such as W.B. Yeats and Synge's formidable mother, but it is Molly's perspective which prevails, the voice of a comical, intuitive, irrepressible life force.An empathetic act of literary homage offering nuggets of emotional intensity.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.