Wednesday 8 December 2010

Coming Home by Patricia Scanlan

Since we're on the run up to Christmas, I thought I would insert some festive reading into my books for December - and decided to start with Coming Home by Patricia Scanlan. I have read a few of Scanlan's novels and, although light, find them generally enjoyable. They are usually large, sprawling and very Irish novels, with a warm heart, which was what I expected to find in Coming Home.

Instead I got a rushed novel - seemingly produced to cash in on the Christmas market. The characters were two dimensional, the moralising was to extreme levels and the twee Irish references littered the book. I was very disappointed.

The plot (such as it is) deals with Alison Dunwoody, a high flying exec living in New York who loses her job thanks to the recession, and her sister Olivia, who chose to stay in Ireland, get married and have children. And... that's it. Alison goes home for Christmas. She tries to hide the fact she's lost her job from her family. She and Olivia have an argument about who has the worst life. She sort of meets a chap called JJ. Nothing happens in this book, seriously! I expected tension. There are three elderly relatives in this book and I was thinking one of them might become ill or something? Nope. Just Alison spending time with her family for Christmas. This could easily have been a short story - it is probably a novella, rather than a novel anyway - with the little dramatic tension it provides.

And that moralising? Sickeningly all-encompassing. Alison learns that money is the root of all evil. She discovers that family is more important than any high-flying executive job. She realises that wealth should not be measured in material items. Ugh. Saccharine sweet and cloying - and written into the story with the subtlety of a brick through a window.

I also found the "Irish-isms" ridiculous - Scanlan tried to write the dialogue phonetically, which made it difficult to read at times and very cutesy. On the other hand, when she dealt with Alison's life in New York, it felt like she had used Wikipedia to research fashion and lifestyle; it felt so artificial and shoe-horned in.

There were a couple of bright moments in the story, but in the main this was a mess of dire proportions - a cash in on Christmas and Scanlan's name. Borderline offensive in terms of how bad it is. Avoid.


  1. I nearly picked this up at Dublin Airport on Tuesday... it was going cheap. Now I know why!!! Got Cathy Kelly's Homecoming instead, which is quite enjoyable so far. I usually enjoy Patricia Scanlon's books so it is a shame to see her cashing in on the Christmas book buying frenzy.

  2. I absolutely hate it when an author tries to write phonetically. I always have to spend extra time trying to figure out what the character is saying, and it disrupts the flow of the story.