‘Ghost Moth’ by Michele Forbes

ghost mothSet in Belfast, Ghost Moth follows the lives of Katherine and George against a backdrop of considerable social unrest and religious tension.

In 1949, Katherine is young, vivacious and discovering all of the new opportunities that life has to offer. She’s also torn between two men – George, her fiancé, who is steady, loyal and dependable, and Tom, who offers fire, passion and unpredictability. As months go by, Katherine has to make a choice that will have far-reaching consequences, indelibly marking all involved.

In 1969, Katherine and George are married with four young children. Her life is dominated by looking after others and she’s still scarred by events that happened twenty years earlier. Her relationship with her husband is strained, and hides long suppressed feelings on anger, guilt and desire that threaten to destroy their marriage and the carefully constructed life they’ve built together.

The author does a great job at getting inside a marriage that has fallen flat with time. Katherine and George’s marriage is marred by nostalgia and resentment, and they struggle to connect. By the time that you turn the last page, you’re left with the feeling that for twenty years, every hidden thought, bottled-up feeling or unsaid word has been wasting precious time, putting their chance for real happiness and contentment aside.

Belfast is a perfect setting for this book, with tensions running high and the ferocity of people’s discontent constantly simmering just below the surface. It creates an oppressive atmosphere that casts a heavy shadow over the lives of everyone living in the city at the time, Katherine and her family included. I thought some of the scenes with Katherine’s daughter, where as one of only two Catholic families living in a mainly Protestant area she faces bullying and childish taunts on a regular basis, were particularly well done.

While this book was beautifully and carefully written, there was something about it just didn’t really grab me. It was very prose and description heavy, and I would probably have preferred it if the pace had picked up a bit. The revelations were teased out and events unfolded with an almost dreamlike quality at some points, but I felt it lacked the punch it needed. That said, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would love the subtleties that Ghost Moth offers.

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