THE PLOT: ‘Scenes of a Graphic Nature’ by Caroline O’Donoghue is contemporary women’s fiction. On the cusp of turning 30, Charlie is a floundering filmmaker. Her best friend has abandoned her for a proper job, she’s selling soft-porn to get by and her father’s cancer has returned. Finally catching a break, when Charlie’s indie film about her father’s upbringing in Ireland is shortlisted for the Cork film festival, she heads across the water for the first time. But when she arrives, she’s embroiled in a conspiracy about her father’s past and it’s up to her to reveal the truth.
RATING: It’s official. When I feel grim about the mouth and like knocking people’s hats off, I take to Caroline O’Donoghue. Her novels are perfectly paced; moreish morsels that you can gobble up within 24hours and completely lose yourself in. This book was everything I needed it to be. It’s fun and witty, but with a deeper meaning about identity and layers of mystery rooted in Irish history. As a mixed-race woman, I loved seeing how the protagonist defined themselves as half-Irish yet through her first visit to her homeland came to understand what heritage truly means. This is a story about finding out who you are and it’s the perfect amount of millennial ennui, coming of age and true crime. Simply put, it’s a real page turner that I couldn’t recommend more.
GOOD BITS: Caroline is great at subverting reader expectation and revealing little tidbits that keep you hooked. I think this is so successful because each twist is engrained in character. Every character in this book is lying to themselves. The difference between what is being said on the surface and what each character really thinks is palpable throughout the novel, even with the most minor cast members. Therefore, the reader is continually on edge and doesn’t know who to believe. In this state of questioning, the reader is often wrong-footed and surprised by the turn of events.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything about this novel. However, three things stood out to me – don’t read ahead because of spoilers. Firstly, I kept expecting Laura to reveal she had actually broken up with Mike because of LA. I think this would’ve made more sense than the open relationship. Secondly, I kept expecting Nick to have a role in the latter half of the novel. I wanted Charlie to email him back and speak to his father. Thirdly, I thought Charlie acted a bit naïve/dumb after Benjamin Barry was so creepy. For example, she should’ve been more careful and hid her laptop properly.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Snowflake’ by Louise Nealon, ‘Asking for It’ by Louise O’Neill and ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams. If you like the “shit I’m 30, what is my life?” style of millennial fiction, but want more plot and weighty underlying themes, this is a book for you.
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