Make Yourself at Home by Ciara Geraghty
Marianne is a numbers person. She wants routine, predictability and order. Her marriage was based on it – she met Brian at work, they were suited in their love of order, she organised their home and life with calm efficiency. When things go wrong she has to return to the family home, a ramshackle building full of memories and, it emerges, people. Everything and everyone seems like a challenge to a woman who likes order, but will the people her remarkable mother Rita introduces her to become important in her life?
This is a book which has a lot of gentle humour which mainly emerges from the fantastic characters that appear throughout the novel. From the colourful Rita who runs a group called Get Well Soon which tackles addiction in a positive way, through Aunt Pearl who has strict views and a secret passion for romantic novels, to the huge Hugh, Scottish immigrant to the the wild coastal area of Ireland where Marianne and Rita’s family home is situated. The house is called Ancaire and almost becomes another character in the novel, with its many rooms, coldness and space which welcomes so many people. This is a novel that looks at the relationships between mother and daughter, friends and family, memories and how life can be more than what people expect. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this entertaining contemporary novel.
When Marianne arrives at Ancaire she has lost her husband who has a new partner with twins on the way, her home which she filled with carefully chosen furniture, and her job owing to her tendency to shoplift. The house is cold, her mother’s offers of food are unwanted, and she despairs of the strange assortment of people that seem to turn up. The house seems haunted by memories of a younger sister who Marianne seemed to be especially close to, especially when Rita and their father were both excitable artists who enjoyed alcohol and parties far more than family life. Now Rita is sober, and is trying to help others take a positive view of life. There is also Patrick, to whom Rita seems very close, a foster son who seems to care deeply for Marianne’s mother. Marianne is convinced that she wants nothing to do with the unusual setup in her family home, but knows that she has no alternative, no plans for her future, and no choice but stay put. Will the memories, the people and the house itself be enough to change everything for Marianne, or is the past just too powerful?
This is a deceptively deep novel of family love and the importance of friendships. Marianne is a well drawn character, who knows her limitations too well, and does not see her way out of her current predicament. The remarkable house is an important element in the house, especially with its proximity to the beach. The clothes that people wear, from the tracksuit bottoms that Marianne adopts for warmth and comfort, the kilt which Hugh wears right through to Rita’s “rig outs” have so much to say about the characters. This is a cleverly written book in which the author seems to enjoy creating and developing characters who are so distinctive. I enjoyed this book and appreciated its depth as well as its humour, its characters and so much else.