Family, Historical Fiction, Romance

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

The reason I’ve always liked historical fiction is that my own knowledge on historical events is pretty much nonexistent. Yes, I took history classes in high school but they barely taught me anything. And I definitely did not have the time to take a course in university that would provide me with more in-depth knowledge. Until I have the opportunity to take a more immersive history course, I gather my knowledge through historical fiction novels. This novel intrigued me because I know almost nothing about the Balkans, so I thought that I would have the chance to be educated on this topic!

Fidelma lives a quiet life in her small Irish village with her husband. However, she has always yearned for a child of her own. When Vlad, a stranger from Eastern Europe, comes into town claiming to be a healer and sex therapist, Fidelma believes he may be the answer to her prayers. All of the locals, including Fidelma, fall for Vlad’s charming ways and soon, Fidelma finds herself enamored by him – so enamored that she begs him to father a child through her. To her surprise, Vlad agrees with some reluctance. Fidelma is happy at first at her new prospects – as well as the possibility of a lover in her life – but everything is shattered when Vlad is arrested and revealed to be a war criminal. The impact this revelation will have on Fidelma – and the rest of the villagers – is something no one could have imagined.

I was hoping for a lot more from this story than what I read. Essentially, the premise that I had read on the back of the book pretty much ruined the story; there was no suspense whatsoever. This novel is definitely graphic in some areas so consider this a warning for any readers who are squeamish! After reading this novel, I felt … cheated. I was expecting a story rife with emotions and full of this internal journey that Fidelma goes through after the discovery of Vlad’s true identity. Instead, this novel switched to different narratives and I read a lot about the lives of different characters who had no relevance to this story. While I appreciated the time and effort that the author put into depicting the struggles of immigrants, it didn’t really add anything to the story; in fact, it caused me to forget the main plot that drew me in in the first place! Even the ending was anticlimactic, and after the whole “breathtaking climax” promise that was on the blurb, I was very disappointed. Overall, this is a decent book that doesn’t really deal with the issue head-on and rambles on different pathways before finally leading to an anticlimactic ending. Not really worth the read, unfortunately.


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