“Orchid & The Wasp” by Caoilinn Hughes

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I’ve had a virus I’ve been struggling to shake and my son has been teething and waking up throughout the night. Pile on an incredibly busy few weeks at work and I’ve got myself a little behind.

Thanks to Oneworld and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Hmmm. An interesting book. Did I like it? I’m not really sure. I suppose I felt the same about it as I felt about it’s main character, Gael. Not easy to like but compelling all the same.

This novel follows Gael, a young Irish woman through various stages in her early life. We are introduced to her dysfunctional family, a financier father, orchestral conductor mother and her fragile younger brother. Gael herself is caustic and brittle and frequently unnerves others with her unusual and unique persona. The relationships between Gael and the rest of her family are often strained and the father-daughter relationship in particular strays into some very weird areas.

Throughout the course of the book we see Gael move from Ireland to London and finally to New York. Some of the events Gael is caught up in include examinations of the crash of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic boom and the Occupy Movement in New York amidst the backdrop of the Modern Art scene.

Gael herself is a very strong character and her voice is one of the most unique I’ve read in a good while. The novel is well written but almost too poetic. Perhaps not surprising considering the author is herself a poet. For me personally, the book started strongly but I found some parts really tough to slog through. I devoured the first 20% or so and then found myself getting bored. I really wanted to love it but wasn’t quite able to. It’s clear from the buzz and critical praise that some people loved it but it wasn’t for me I’m afraid.

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