Christine flexes her storytelling muscles with aplomb in her new novel The Lives of Women. Switching between past and present the story unfolds through the eyes of both teenage and adult Elaine Nichols. Chef Elaine has returned from New York to her family home to help nurse her ailing father after her mother’s death. It is not a comfortable setup as Elaine’s relationship with her parents is distant and strained following the mysterious tragic events of a summer night back in the 1970s.
Memory by memory, 50-year-old Elaine begins to reveal the friendships and circumstances that brought an abrupt end to her youthful innocence. We meet Elaine’s teenage circle: troubled Agatha, effortlessly cool American Patty and her warm mother Serena, neighbours Rachel Shillman and Brendie Caudwell, and local boys Karl and Jonathan. All have a part to play in the events that unraveled their tight-knit circle.
The novel depicts the dull monotony of life as an Irish suburban housewife in the days when jobs were shelved once a woman married. The pervading sense of their mothers’ restlessness doesn’t go unnoticed by Elaine and her pals as they battle to prevent themselves from turning into their mothers.
Christine has done a fantastic job of honing in on that dangerous, delicate time between adolescence and adulthood. The terrifying truth in her novel is that it can all go so wrong so quickly when teenage emotions are left to run unchecked.
If you’re reading this wondering “What is it? What’s the thing that happened?!” then good! My work here is done.