A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Rating: 2 Stars
Given to me by my English teacher, on the recommendation that it won some book prize worth 100,000 euro or something. The rating is especially subjective with this one.
In Short: A prizewinner that I just didn't 'get'. At least, I assume so.
There isn't an awful lot to say. Foster is written from the POV of a child, so Keegan has an excuse to do that thing literary writers love to do, as in write in a painfully innocent, astute way. I do it too, sometimes. But I'm convinced no kid is actually like that, it just looks impressive in a novel (and reads beautifully, yes).
Keegan is very good at painting pictures using few words (and she'd want to be - the book is under 100 pages). She also captures rural Irish accents very well, though they're really rural, i.e. "bogger" accents, and I'm afraid outsiders (mainly Americans) will think all Irish people speak like that. I like the sense of love she communicates between the Kinsellas and the child (who is never named, as far as I can remember). You do see the relationship dynamics clearly, and the author chooses her words well (unlike me).
The low rating is because I just didn't get it. There's something that happens in the middle that sounds like it'll start an adventure, or at least be a mystery to solve, but it's never mentioned again. There is no exciting plot, it's all just nicely-described mundanity. The ending is far too ambiguous for my tastes, and I left feeling unsatisfied.
I also felt misled by the blurb; the "secret" isn't that big, and certainly doesn't threaten her "fragile idyll". With the great description and use of language, I can see why English teachers would love it, but it didn't engage me in the slightest.
Another example of literary novels not being for me.
I'll probably reread it at some point; hopefully I'll see more then.