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Review: The Ante-Room, by Kate O'Brien


Pages: 306

Original date of publication: 1934

My edition: 2003 (Virago)

Why I decided to read: I found this book browsing on ebay

How I acquired my copy: Ebay, July 2010

The Ante-Room is set over the course of just a few days in 1880. Agnes Mulqueen lives with her father, brother, and mother, who is dying from cancer. When Agnes’s older sister Marie-Rose arrives for a visit, she brings her husband, Vincent, along with her—and Agnes must deal with the feelings she has for her brother-in-law.

This is another one of those books I really wanted to like. But because the characters spend so much time waiting, the novel drags a lot, especially towards the middle. Agnes’s struggle—her love her Vincent versus her extremely strong faith—could be interesting, but I just found it dull after a while. I found myself wishing that Agnes would just grow herself a backbone, since she allows people to walk all over her. Actually, none of the characters are particularly likeable, except maybe poor Dr. Curran, who actually seems like a decent guy. Even Teresa Mulqueen, who I’d normally feel sorry for, isn’t all that sympathetic. But the author is a gifted writer, and she touches on her characters struggles with a great amount of compassion. Since I like Kate O’Brien’s prose style, I’ll read more books by her.

Comments

Hannah Stoneham said…
I have never read any Kate O Brien but she seems to pop up on my radar quite a bit. Thanks for sharing this review -

Hannah

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2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…