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Marble Gardens by Deirdre Purcell
Published by New Island, 2002

Marble Gardens is Deirdre Purcell's latest block-buster. It is the story of two couples who have been friends for all of their married lives; the two women were childhood friends and the husbands run a car hire business in Dublin Airport. Eily and Brian have two children while Mike and Sophie are childless. The story opens shortly after Eily & Brian's teenage daughter, Zelda, has been diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of leukaemia. A few years previously Eily fell under the spell of a 'Guru', Jay Street, who has set up a branch of his Organisation in Ireland. Under his influence she has changed her name to Riba, because in a previous incarnation she believes she was an Egyptian Princess of that name. She has now decided that the only hope for her daughter's recovery is to bring her, against all medical advice, to Jay's Caribbean island H.Q. where she is convinced her daughter will be restored to health. The book is basically the story of Eily/Riba's obsession which persists against all reason or logic, and which she clings to in spite of the risks of losing family and friends because of her irrational belief and trust in a clever manipulator.

This is the most believable book Deirdre Purcell has written for some time. She has returned to writing a good story which does not stretch the bounds of credibility as much as one or two of her previous works have. Her writing is as always very polished and the characters are well drawn. She paints a very clear picture of the tensions in a family where a young person is under sentence of death and the difficulties which parents and sibling have in coming to terms with their situation. The desperation of the parents and brother prepared to cling to straws and seize on any suggestion, however bizarre, which might hold out a ray of hope, is very well described. There are a few incidents in the book which stretch credibility but by and large the writing is good enough to keep you reading and to carry you to the end of the story. Like the curate's egg, this book is good in spots.
A good holiday read!

Reviewed by a Clare County Library staff member.