The Long Hot Summer | Kathleen MacMahon

Kernel Fiona reviews THE LONG HOT SUMMER from famed Irish author Kathleen MacMahon (who has an uncanny resemblance to Missy from Doctor Who). Fi compares MacMahon to Maeve Binchy and outs herself to be a proud fan of the Barry Manilow-like authors – “almost makes you want to settle down with a buttery crumpet and a nice cup of tea.” Mmmmmm crumpets…….Anyways THE LONG HOT SUMMER is currently sold out from online sales via the publisher, our friends at Hachette Australia, however it should be available in all good book stores. All the best………..JK.

BY FIONA FYFE

Kathleen MacMahon is the author of THIS IS HOW IT ENDS which was a number one best seller in her native Ireland. Set In Dublin on the cusp of the Obama elections, it was a love story about identity and nationality. In her latest offering she uses that enjoyable device of dividing chapters between the characters so that while the main story arc keeps moving, we get an up close and personal look at the individual players as well.

In THE LONG HOT SUMMER, MacMahon introduces us to four generations of the MacEntee family. This is no ordinary group of people. Matriarch Deirdre, once a successful actress, still spends a large chunk of her twilight years playing a role. Entirely inconvenienced by a diagnosis of cataracts and on the cusp of her eightieth birthday, she feels drastic measures are in order. Ex-husband, Manus is a famous writer who came out of the closet thirty years ago then scandalously ran off with his much younger Moroccan lover, Sam. Three decades later Deirdre is still grappling with the news. It must be remembered that Manus’s leap from the closet occurred in Ireland in 1985. No-fault divorce wasn’t available until 1996 and homosexuality was still outlawed until 1993. It’s impossible not to admire this erudite and slightly eccentric guy for his ballsy decision.

 

The Long Hot Summer Book Cover image
The Long Hot Summer | Kathleen McMahon | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Book Cover image

 

Deirdre and Manus’s offspring are predictably an eclectic mix of individuals. Alma, the TV star who finds herself the victim of a vicious assault must reassess her life values. How important are manicured nails and coiffured hair in the great scheme of things? Her ex-husband, Mick is a European politician who manages to disgrace himself and ruin an impressive career. I completely warmed to Mick’s response to his personal catastrophe and his adoption of humour in the face of adversity. I found myself applauding his wanton use of expletives when under stress and his ambition to score a spot on Celebrity Master Chef even though his career is dead in the water, is nothing short of courageous.

MacEntee daughter number two, Acushla is a doyenne of countless fund-raising committees and charities and married to a serious Government Minister, Liam. What Acushla lacks in smarts she more than makes up for in kindness of spirit and generosity. There’s more to Acushla than meets the eye though. Husband Liam, recently given the boot by an angry electorate is seemingly devoid of any ability to empathise with his wife and appears to lack the capacity for self-reflection. Regardig the state of their marriage, the expression “walking on egg shells” springs to mind.

Macdara, the male heir of the family still lives with Deirdre following a very intense melt-down while living in France. Opting for a life of celibacy, he spends his days in his mother’s granny flat apparently oblivious to the world around him. While his sisters have strong bonds with their father, Macdara is intimidated by him and Manus is at a loss as to how to connect with his reclusive offspring. With his unusual clothes and behavioural oddities, Macdara is the Boo Radley of the piece; harmless, but forever watching from the shadows.

 

Kathleen MacMahon author image
The Long Hot Summer | Kathleen McMahon | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Author image – Photo Credit to RTE

 

Acushla and Liam’s daughter Connie was once a carefree party girl. These days she finds herself sleep-deprived and burdened by the tedium of motherhood. While husband Emmett plods away at his thesis and part-time lecturing job at the College, Connie watches her career in journalism fade off into the sunset as she tries to juggle two rowdy sons with managing her blog. Her cousin Nora, daughter of Alma and Mick, is a human rights activist, missing somewhere in the Gaza Strip. Like her grandfather Manus, she is an idealist and icon smasher, hoping to meet someone special and often feeling as if she is the only single woman left on the planet.

Formerly a radio and television journalist, MacMahon appears to have picked up where Maeve Binchy left off. While it may not be cool to say you’re a Binchy fan, I have ambled my way through most of that writer’s novels and thoroughly enjoyed them. There is a quaint appeal to these types of books, as if you were sitting with your Irish grandmother while she regales you with stories of the local townsfolk. If Binchy and MacMahon are the Barry Mannilows of writing, I’m still happy to out myself as a fan.

The beauty of these types of novels is that they neither demand too much of the reader nor pretend to be high works of literature. What they offer is a comforting stroll through the lives of mostly charming characters whose personal demons or flaws are not unlike our own. There’s a lot to be said for a good yarn, especially when seen through Irish eyes. It almost makes you want to settle down with a buttery crumpet and a nice cup of tea. If MacMahon becomes even half as prolific as Binchy or her Celtic counterparts, this is definitely something to look forward to. And any writer who can work a performance of an ABBA number into an Irish family saga, gets my vote.

 

3 and a Half Pops

 

Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then. You can catch her and her tweets at @FionaJayneFyfe1