Apologies to fans of Nadine Dorries but we were united in feeling that ‘Shadows in heaven’ had not left us with an inclination to read more of her books. It was an easy read (although the huge cast of characters did lead to some confusion initially), however the characters lacked depth and there was an air of sentimentality about the whole thing.
Set in rural Ireland at the end of the Second World War it evoked life in a small community where everyone has to pull together, and everyone knows everyone else’s business. It touched on lots of aspects of life: family relationships, living off the land, the young people emigrating, the tinkers, folk customs and supersitions, the power of the church, poaching and anger at the English after the potatoe famine but still managed to feel superficial. The main dramatic action happened early and although there was the promise of more it didn’t deliver – in fact the further developments were predictable.
For a couple of the group the story linked back to tales from family history which was interesting – reflections on the practice of the priest ‘cleansing’ a woman after childbirth before she could attend church again (so much for the sanctity of motherhood) and life in rural Ireland within living memory. Towards the end of the book a couple of the characters reflect on how life is changing and the feeling that the sense of community will be lost.
We also discussed the way superstition and folk customs live along side the Catholic faith, and how all religions tend to accommodate existing beliefs to gain acceptability as they extend their reach.
Whist accepting that this is the first in a trilogy I was very frustrated by the addition of plot lines towards the end of the book which weren’t developed – hooks for the next!