Day 918: Ghost Light

Cover for Ghost LightBest Book of the Week!
The Irish playwright John Millington Synge was engaged to marry an actress, Molly Allgood, when he died in 1909. Their relationship was of several years’ standing, but it was considered scandalous because of the difference in their ages and stations. Synge was nearly twice as old as Molly, and Molly was from a poor and uncultured family.

Ghost Light is a fictionalized account of this relationship, and O’Connor freely admits to taking liberties with it. The novel begins in 1952, when Molly is an old lady, nearly destitute and living in a cheap rooming house in London. The story follows her for one night and day of her life, during which she remembers the events in her love affair with Synge.

This novel is beautifully and atmospherically written, poetic at times, and partially in different flavors of Irish vernacular. It eloquently tells a story of frustrated love and loss. This is a compelling characterization of Molly and her view of the character of Synge. Ghost Light has been another interesting experience from my Walter Scott Prize list.

7 thoughts on “Day 918: Ghost Light

  1. thatssojacob June 15, 2016 / 1:04 pm

    I read a lot of book reviews, but this is one of the few that I would actually like to add to my list! I took a class on 20th-century Irish theatre, plus the “ghost light” is one of the most intriguing and mysterious aspects of theatre even today. Come over and visit, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you!

    • whatmeread June 15, 2016 / 1:15 pm

      So, I was lazy and didn’t try to find out what that refers to. I guess I will look it up now. Thanks!

      • thatssojacob June 15, 2016 / 3:12 pm

        A ghost light is what is left on at night on the stage to comfort or scare away spirits.

  2. Helen June 15, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    I read this a few years ago and can’t remember much about it now, except that the writing was beautiful. I’ve updated my Walter Scott Prize page with your link. 🙂

  3. Naomi June 16, 2016 / 9:48 am

    I’ve never heard of Synge, but this book sounds good. Sad that he was only 37 when he died. Does the book mention how he died, or is it a spoiler?

    • whatmeread June 17, 2016 / 7:31 am

      I don’t remember how he died, but he was sickly.

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