Naoise Dolan is an Irish writer who I had never heard of before, probably because the book I just finished reading was her very first novel. This award winning publication about a woman teaching English in Hong Kong was a very readable book but the thing that attracted me to it originally was its cover. Simple but colourful.
It turns out she wrote this book whilst living in Hong Kong herself so clearly she felt very inspired whilst there. The story followed Ava who had moved to experience a different culture and have some breathing space away from her expectant family. Working as a teacher, she struggled to afford much and had a flat share before befriending a British banker (Julian) who eventually invited her to stay at his.
The book is readable but there are moments when the author analyses grammar and these can detract from the storytelling a bit. As a teacher, I enjoyed this but I can see how it may get a little irritating. In a way it served the purpose of discussing what she was teaching and how her students got to grips with the past progressive tense and other such linguistic concepts. All I can say is, like it or not, the rest of the story is interesting and unique.
Without giving too much away, Ava became ‘friends with benefits’ with her new landlord friend and explored a different passion with a local character during a period when her buddy was away for business. Julian seemed quite a distant person and was not rattled too much publicly by Ava’s fascination with a confident woman (Edith). With an LGBT angle to this story, the author had a masterful way of outlining challenges that can come from exploring relationships.
So, in a nutshell, this book is a clever read set in Hong Kong, with a bit of intellectual natter thrown in. If you strip it right back, it is about self-discovery, a need to impress and flying away from the family nest. Naoise was recognised for her debut and aligned with Sally Rooney. I am pleased with the book but I did pick it up and put it down a lot over the past two years. Although it is compelling, it was not a story that grabbed me in the same way as The Girl in the Blue Coat which I reviewed last.
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