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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill

Title:  Reluctantly Charmed

Author: Ellie O’Neill
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster (October 1st 2014)
Pages:  448 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: magical realism, romance, fairies, chick lit
Rating: 2 crowns

Kate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Almost instantaneously, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.

As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt’s final, devastating request ... and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

There are many interesting aspects to this debut tale by Irish-Australian author Ellie O’Neill, particularly the topics of Irish folklore, fairies, and life in modern day Ireland.

The reader is provided with a window on city living in Ireland’s capital - “Dublin competes with itself all the time. It feels like it should move on and look modern, but it doesn’t really want to.” – with bike riding, new cultures and pub life all regaled.  O’Neill is not frightened to express what really is being embraced here:

“This New Ireland doesn’t look back, because we’ve been led to believe that there’s nothing there worth looking back for. Look back and you’ll find hundreds of years of oppression and misery, the famine, poverty and emigration. Why should we dwell on our past? Recent events have made me think that perhaps it is time to look back. Have we been wise to ignore our rich heritage of Celtic mysticism an spirituality?”

Herein lies what is at the heart of this tale – Irish folklore, namely fairies, and our need to recognize and maybe embrace what they have to offer:

“But I like the idea of fairies, and guardian angels and cosmic coincidences. It was just really hard to believe in any of it when you couldn’t see it. I’d read self-help and spiritual guidebooks - I was a normal 26 year old after all. I was interested in understanding how things worked and how I worked. I looked to the universe for coincidences. I tried to understand.”

Through some humorous moments, O’Neill provides thought provoking ideas by way of the seven letters Kate must publish, seven steps that will resonate with any environmentally aware person in today’s world. What were these scripts of old that would ultimately allow Kate to assess and make changes to her life in some unexpected ways?

“They’re all kinds of things. They're quite nice really, mainly about appreciating nature. They’re just nice little messages…. What harm is there in taking half a minute out of our busy lives to stop, to pause and appreciate, to know that we are all of the same earth, that we work together? Do it. You’ll be happier for it"

This book is not entirely how I imagined it to be, seesawing between genre styles and at times a little drawn out. It loses its footing a bit here and there, but Kate’s efforts to reconcile and come to terms with the steps are always interesting and often comical. There is an array of secondary characters that provide colour to the story – quite literally for Kate’s parents!  So if you are after a light whimsical read, and are open-minded about the possible existence of fairies, then this is the book for you.

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