Saturday, 7 April 2007

The Secret of my Face by Karen Ardiff

The Secret of My Face
Karen Ardiff
(New Island €??)

A CHARMING novel, set in the 1930s, with a slammer of a whiplash ending that changes everything that came before it.

Karen Ardiff has a reputation as a generous mentor to other writers and actors - she's an award-laden actress on stage and screen.

As in all the best fairytales, she's being rewarded, with her book a runaway success.

Her 30s Co Dublin is two worlds: a grim mountainy farm that might as well be in the 16th century, and the wealthy world of the leading surgeons in their homes in the Georgian squares.

Wrenched from one to the other is 14-year-old Veronica Broderick, whose hare lip has ruined her beauty. When an awkward young doctor appears at the farm, and she finds herself translated to her well-off aunt and uncle's home, a new world opens before her.

She's translated to a life of lovely hats, new experiences, and a plan for an operation that will remake her face, despite her father's opposition.

It sounds like a standard nostalgia novel, from this bare outline. It's far from that - but to say more would ruin the utter shock that recurs with every page turned. A brilliant debut.

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