Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Greyhound of a Girl

Roddy Doyle is one of my favorite contemporary novelists. I especially like The Woman Who Walked into Doors and Paula Spencer. So I was intrigued to discover he also writes fiction for children. His latest is A Greyhound of a Girl, and it's an unusual take on a ghost story. Set in present day Dublin, the novel's protagonist is Mary, a 12-year-old who speaks her mind, occasionally veering into being cheeky. One day coming home from school she meets a curiously old-fashioned woman who seems familiar, although Mary is sure she's never seen her before.

It turns out the woman is the ghost of her great grandmother, who died suddenly of the flu in 1928. She's returned to guide her daughter, Emer, who's dying, from this world to the next. To do that she needs Mary and her mother Scarlett's help. The four generations of women embark on a journey one night, traveling to revisit the farm where the great grandmother and grandmother once lived.

As in his adult books, Doyle is especially strong on dialog and the three women and one-woman-in-waiting banter in distinctive, colloquial voices. Doyle explores mother-daughter relationships from different viewpoints and astute readers will enjoy seeing how Scarlett's struggles for independence are later echoed by Mary. And while the novel pingpongs from present to past, because the characters are so clearly drawn, the reader is never confused. If you like your ghost stories light on scary and full of heartfelt emotion, A Greyhound of a Girl is for you.

A Greyhound of a Girl
by Roddy Doyle
Amulet, 208 pages
Publication: May 2012

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