Tuesday, 10 July 2007

We are Gold by Alice Chambers

We Are Gold
Alice Chambers
(New Island)

THE GOLD family are recovering from the death of a daughter, a mother and a sister in Alice Chamber's interesting first novel.

Hannah Gold has been killed in a car crash, leaving her son Jack, her sister and brother Dawn and Omega and her parents Rose and Henry bereft.

Each tries to mend the tears in different ways.

Rose writes discursive poems, exploring a world without Hannah, and a world in which her marriage is gradually exposed as polite and loving, but empty.

Jack expresses his grief in the classic manner of children: what psychologists call 'displacement activity', where a child puts great attention into play to avoid what's too painful.

Writer Alice Chambers is based between Dublin and Rome, and has worked as a translator for publishing houses. In her funny, moving novel, she uses Ireland's new cosmopolitanism as the backboard to bounce her story.

The family is one rich in eccentricity, poor in competence, with Omega weakly wandering after his wife dumps him; dippy Dawn squeaking and whinging; Henry distant and Rose one of those arty women who never quite followed her art.

Chambers is not well served by the publisher's gimmicky layout, which has distracting gaps between the paragraphs, making it hard to sink into the story with the dreamy attentiveness where you look up to find you've missed your stop.

It's a surprise best-seller, in great demand in the shops and outselling the more standardised books the publishers bet their britches on.

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