Michèle Forbes - Ghost Moth (3 stars)

Michèle Forbes - Ghost Moth

It is in the carefully drawn details, rather than plotting, that actress-turned-writer Forbes' debut comes alive

(Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

This Belfast-set novel, the debut of Irish actress-turned-writer Michèle Forbes, is initially underwhelming: its story of Katherine, a wife and mother in 1969, struck by memories of a defining romantic encounter 20 years earlier, is beautifully written, but not gripping. But Forbes’ writing possesses a stealthy power, and her patient layering of the story, memory upon memory, results in a surprising emotional impact by the time the final page is turned.

On the surface, Ghost Moth is about Katherine’s relationship with her devoted husband George, and how their suppressed knowledge of the past persists in seeping into their life together. But pursuing a plot is not Forbes’ primary concern, and it is in the carefully drawn details that this novel comes alive. The strongest element is Forbes’ heartfelt evocation of parental love, as she dwells on simple domestic scenes that powerfully convey the connection between Katherine and her four children. This is a novel of lived moments captured and explored: moments that become all the more poignant as the story turns to tragedy.

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