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Ghost Light Paperback – International Edition, July 5, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker; Airport / Ireland / Export ed edition (July 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781846553523
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846553523
  • ASIN: 1846553520
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,322,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

O'Connor (Redemption Falls) presents a turbulent love story loosely based on the relationship between Irish playwright John Synge and actress Molly Allgood. The story opens in post-WWII London, where Molly is a spinster with a fondness for drink, but through a series of reminiscences the reader learns that, in her youth, she was a promising actress out of the poorer quarters of Dublin. Working in a theater group that included her more talented older sister and W.B. Yeats, Molly soon develops an attraction to the significantly older playwright Synge. She is pugnacious and ambitious, he circumspect and introverted, but the two secretly fall in with one another, and over the course of years they struggle with the differences in their age, class, and religion, and with their respective temperaments and expectations. The voice of old, broken Molly is an impressive creation, and the narrative convincingly plunges the reader into a tumultuous and tender account of a tortured romance, though some of O'Connor's stylistic choices (notably abrupt tense and perspective shifts within Molly's head) impede narrative momentum and yield a reading experience that feels heavy and too hazy. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In 1950s London, a drunken, broken-down old woman recalls her passionate love affair with a gifted playwright. O’Connor fictionalizes the real-life relationship between promising young actress Molly Allgood and tortured playwright J.M. Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World. When 18-year-old Molly joins the celebrated Abbey Theater ensemble in 1907, she quickly becomes enamored of the extremely talented but emotionally remote Synge. As the action stretches back and forth between post-WWII London and Edwardian Dublin, the bittersweet disconnect between the vital and passionate Molly of the past and the shuffling survivor of the present is heartrending. Although plenty of poetic license is taken in rendering this rumored love story, the emotional impact of the narrative rings true. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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This is one of the most beautifully written and well-conceived novels I've read in a very, very long time.
Charlotte Vale-Allen
As books go, this one was indeed, brilliant in the flow of words encased in paragraphs, but the overall story didn't flow well at all.
Kiwi
In fact, Molly has so much literature in her ~ Irish songs, poems, plays ~ that Synge's imagination was fed by Molly.
Evelyn A. Getchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ghost Light: A Novel is a transcendent experience, a radiant love story which speaks of a passion that shimmers in ghost light, "An ancient superstition among people of the stage. One lamp must always be left burning when the theatre is dark, so the ghosts can perform their own plays."

Joseph O'Connor with a virtuosic, literary master stroke has melded fact with fiction in this captivating tribute to love ~ the story of Irish playwright J M Synge and his lover Molly Allgood, the Irish actress with the stage name of Maire O'Neill. This beautiful novel of Irish lore and lyricism has given me hours and hours of pure reading pleasure. Ghost Light: A Novel is so stunning that I found myself rereading paragraphs or entire pages over and over again just to revel in literary excellence.

When I come across a book like this in which I am particularly captivated, I mark certain pages that I want to reread again later with little slips of paper. When I finished this book, I had to laugh at myself because practically all of its pages have little slips of paper sticking out between them! This is one of those rare books where one can open up to any page and find the most extraordinary language, imagery, metaphor, or a passage or phrase that will transport one to another time, another place. For many of these remarkable qualities I am reminded of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and I know that this book is of those great traditions and deserves to be read again and again.

Yet it is not a book for everybody. Many will not appreciate the stream of consciousness narrative.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor is a brilliant and complex book. It is one of the best books I have read in the last five years. The language is poetic and hallucinatory and this is a book where one can't skip passages or lines. Every word is necessary and the whole is a gift put together with the greatest care and love.

The novel is about a grand love affair between Molly Allgood, an actress (stage name Maire O'Neill) and the playwright John Synge, most well-known for his play, Playboy of the Western World. The book starts out in 1952 on the streets of post-war London. Molly, 67 years old, is walking the cold blustery city and freezing. She lives in a hovel and drinks too much. She is hungry and cold, going from one sheltered spot to another and hallucinating from the the alcohol, her hunger and her freezing. She is on her way to a BBC radio reading and on her way she remembers, in broken dream sequences, her relationship with John Synge.

Molly and John Synge had an affair and at the time of their affair she was eighteen years old and he was thirty-six. John was very ill, most likely with lymphoma but perhaps tuberculosis or some other lung disease. He had one neck surgery after another. He lived only two years after they met. They came from opposite sides of the tracks. Molly was an actress who was from a mixed marriage - protestant and catholic - and she worked with her mother in a drapery shop. John came from old money and was of protestant background. He had a symbiotic relationship with his mother which made his relationship with Molly doomed from the start as his mother would not permit him to bring Molly home and threatened to cut off his trust fund should he marry her.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on January 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of the most beautifully written and well-conceived novels I've read in a very, very long time. This not a quick fast-paced item nowadays called "a read." It is an honest-to-goodness book. It cannot be skimmed, constructed as it is with a glorious use of language that is sheer pleasure, along with characters so intimately crafted that it is actually wrenching to come to the end and be separated from both the writing and the people. For those who aren't in a tearing hurry to get through the next item on their bedside reading stack, this is a dream of a book. I am still marveling over the wealth of detail, past and present, all of it stemming from the mind of a touching, irritating, fully realized, funny, rude, gifted and good-hearted, utterly remarkable woman. Don't miss this! This is a keeper, a book to be reread. Most highly recommended.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Joseph O'Connor has fashioned a marvelous novel, a reimaging of the love affair of John Millington Synge - the famous playwright of Playboy of the Western World and other fine works - and the younger, less well-stationed Molly Allgood, who performed under the name of Maire O'Neill.

"Certain biographers will want to beat me with a turf shovel," O'Connor states in his aftermath. Indeed, in reading that aftermath, this is not the book for those who are seeking a historically-correct look into these principals. It is definitely fiction.

But what fiction it is! It sings, glows, and at times, reads like sheer poetry. There are hints of James Joyce in the stream-of-consciousness. It all flows from the title Ghost Light, which O'Connor defines later in the book, "An ancient superstition among people of the stage. One lamp must always be left burning when the theatre is dark, so the ghosts can perform their own play."

And within the confines of this novel, these "ghosts" definitely do. The "play" begins in 1952; Molly, now quite old and penurious, is in London where is to record a radio play for the BBC studios. There, in an alcoholic haze, she muses upon the highlights of her life: as an actress at Abbey Theatre of Dublin, her acquaintance with Yeats, and most of all, her love affair with the much-older John M. Synge.

She remembers that Synge was "a man who could see into things - very ordinary things...
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