THE Letter Home by Rachael English is one of those novels you wish had a ruthless editor.
There are breathtaking moments. The observations of the first central character Jessie, a disgraced Dublin journalist back in County Clare – this is a three-plot story – are bitingly precise.
“If I come up with stories, I’ll get work,” said Jessie, who lost her job after appearing on a live TV show after drinking a few too many vodkas. (Readers will remember this moment from Brian Cowen in Morning Ireland).
“Even when the words left Jessie’s mouth, she knew they weren’t true. The media had changed. Dublin was full of young reporters who were ready to write what their bosses wanted while shooting video, recording a podcast and engaging in heated arguments on Twitter Ouch, the Englishman who is best known as a presenter on Morning Ireland.
We want more. And there’s more.
“Newsrooms were occupied either by interns or squeaky veterans who had nowhere to go.” Entire television careers had been built on filler and great hair, rather than what you say.
And it’s not just about the crises of contemporary journalism.
There’s this pithy nugget about Irish nationalism, from the third plot – centered on Jessie’s Irish-Bostonian cousin, lawyer Kaitlin.
“Is being Irish different from being English, German or Swedish? Is it really that distinctive? In the end, you are just another shade of white. Clay, Kaitlin’s future ex, notes with bite.
And there’s that gem of the Irish property industry, from Jessie’s grandmother, Etty, who remembers when she was young the popular phrase “You can’t eat scenery…”
“Isn’t it funny how wrong that turned out to be?” her grandmother had said. “People will pay a lot of money for a great view, fresh air and a bit of scenery.” Very early on, you wonder if the Famine fund is really necessary.