Synge's lover brought to life


“And when you process your memories as you begin to age it becomes clear to you that maybe your mother was right that you wouldn’t end up with that person. So it’s about how we carry our ghosts too.”

In the same way that Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon are descendants of Synge’s tramp-on-the-make Christy Mahon, O’Connor’s Molly is another near vagrant with a name and a namesake in Irish literature. But harkening back to these characters gives O’Connor’s book a texture that clearly connects it to Irish tradition even as it moves beyond it.

Young Molly emerges as proud, spirited and beautiful -- but she’s also terrifically funny. She doesn’t care who anyone is.

“I like that about her,” says O’Connor. “She’s a rebel. I admire people who live by their own lights, and this is a woman who decided to live on her own terms.

“It was a real pleasure to write her and that’s why readers have found her so convincing. I worked very hard to get to her voice. Any time this irreverent, tempestuous, flirtatious young woman from Dublin walked into a scene there’s a crackle of electricity. It’s her book, and once I allowed her to speak it came quite quickly.”

But if much of Irish writing involves artists picking at the nation’s many historical wounds -- either to heal or keep them fresh -- O’Connor is among the least interested in such insular pursuits. In fact, he did the opposite. 

“Every novelist is writing the book he’d love to read, and this one was a joy for me. It’s become the favorite of my own works. I rediscovered the joy of writing creating it,” O’Connor says.

Although nowadays he is no longer immediately liked to his famous sister, the singer Sinead O’Connor, there’s no doubt that the theme of rupture and breakdown in relationships (the two are estranged) is something he’s given years of thought to.

“I think a lot of us have one person in our life who isn’t in our life anymore,” says O’Connor, without clarifying who he’s speaking of.

“Somebody with whom it didn’t work out. It could be a lover or a parent or a sibling. A lot of us have one fractured broken relationship that we’ve just had to move on from.

“But at the same time it conditions every other relationship that you’re ever going to have. You bring that person into your life with your spouse and your friends and colleagues and they’ll always be with you and influence you perhaps far more than the people you see every day.

“I think a lot of us have that particular ghost, as Molly does. For her there was always somebody else. And I think there often is.”