A stunning fictionalised portrait of a truly fascinating family, and an intimate view of a century of Irish history.
'A cynic might ask what she deserves to be remembered for. She left behind no great paintings or books, descendants or political achievements, nothing one can conventionally measure. Yet throughout her life she achieved the miracle of being steadfastly true to herself. Inside her gentleness lurked a diamond that refused to change for any time or fashion. She was ahead of her time. No generation produces more than a handful of independent thinkers, existing on the fringe of things, invisible and as essential as plankton.'
This is Dermot Bolger describing Sheila Fitzgerald - an amazing Irish woman he first met as a young man. Born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family in 1903, she died, aged 97, and thus lived through almost the entire twentieth century. The trajectory of her life seems at first glance to be staggeringly odd, mad even - although born into a privileged and rarefied world, she spent her old age living in a caravan in a field in Wexford; in between came a childhood steeped in politics and the arts, a disastrous marriage, the deaths of her two children and running an art school. But at the heart of this idiosyncratic life lies an absolute constant - a refusal to be anything other than herself.
From all this wonderful material, Bolger forges his new novel, one that spans a century of Irish history but has at its heart a lovely, emotional study of an aristocrat who defied all expectations.