Haunting tale of obsessive love


“Love was the great consolation,” says the anonymous protagonist of Megan Nolan’s debut novel, “would ignite the fields of my life all at once, leaving nothing behind. I thought of him as the great leveler, as a force that would cleanse me and by its presence make me worthy of it. Out of context, you might be forgiven for thinking that such a phrase belongs to an eighteenth century novel about the bodice ripper of a horribly poor quality. However, in the text of Nolan’s very contemporary novel, which is often described as “anti-novel”, this crazy and radical phrase takes on its full meaning.

What needs to be understood about Ciaran is not only that he was exceptionally good looking, but that there was immense stillness radiating from his body. And our heroine (because she is, after all, a heroine), who has staggered from pillar to post in pursuit of something – everything – that looks like genuine love, is immediately struck. Ciaran is half Irish, half Danish and came to Ireland to care for his father whose health has deteriorated. Or so he says. Later in the novel, we find out that Ciaran left his alcoholic and quite helpless father more or less to himself. Ciaran did not participate in any mission of mercy, he just did what he wanted. He writes for a living. She also writes. “… His salaried work consisted of writing and reviewing for a magazine”. Just a few paragraphs later, the reader is informed: “I told him that I had written, too, in a way that I have always told people: with the pious eyes downcast of a saint, looking away. gaze, worried and secretly a little hopeful that they would. want to ask me about it {…} He nodded quickly and moved the conversation forward. “

If we had to sum up this whole “love affair” in a few sentences, these are as good as any. She tries everything she can think of to please Ciaran, at enormous cost to herself, as she has somehow mistakenly established that loving a man in his truest form involves great spoonfuls of martyrdom, even to the point of stooping. She believes that love is a prisoner of suffering, that a woman cannot love while still respecting herself, which is a very disturbing concept but probably more common than one would like to admit. .

The relationship is haunted by Ciaran’s ex-girlfriend in Copenhagen, yet another woman desperate for her dedication. When the couple go their separate ways for Christmas, her to spend time with her family in Waterford, him for – well, let’s not spoil – the breaking point seems to have been reached. And even. Still, she’s coming back for more.

It seems to be a “thing” in contemporary literature these days, the exploration of romantic love as a pilgrimage of misjudged and inappropriate subjugation for women, involving men unworthy of a kind word or a pat on the head no matter the measure. of love. But of course, the point of this story is that whatever the protagonist feels, it’s not love. She is as incapable of loving as he is, but she is much more vulnerable.

There are similarities between this tale of obsession and Niamh Campbell’s novel this happy. Both narrators are ready to sacrifice themselves on their own carefully constructed altars. But Campbell’s narrator is more detached, more protective. That’s not the case with Nolan’s narrator, younger than Campbell’s and determined to self-destruct and humiliate himself to keep his anti-novel on track. The result is predictable. But the journey itself is so excruciatingly authentic, so frantic, and so intricately written, that it will linger with the reader long after the end.