“I saw James as extremely advanced, a person who had interrogated all sides of his soul. He was too emotionally intelligent to get stuck in the doldrums of what music or behaviour seemed gay or straight. In that moment, he wasn’t just a person to me. He was the future of people.”
– The Rachel Incident
[ About The Rachel Incident ]
The Rachel Incident is an all-consuming love story. But it’s not the one you’re expecting. It’s unconventional and messy. It’s young and foolish. It’s about losing and finding yourself.
But it is always about love.
When Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr Byrne, her best friend James helps her devise a plan to seduce him. But what begins as a harmless crush soon pushes their friendship to its limits. Over the course of a year they will find their lives ever more entwined with the Byrnes’ and be faced with impossible choices and a lie that can’t be taken back…
[ My Review ]
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’ Donoghue published with Virago June 22nd and is described as ‘2023’s hottest summer read’. Primarily set in Cork in the late 2000s, The Rachel Incident is a book about self-discovery in those final college days, as that big step into adulthood looms large.
Rachel has lived at home in Douglas, a suburb of Cork City, all her life. She is in her final year in University College Cork (UCC) and works part-time in a local bookshop in the city centre. She is twenty years of age, in love (or so she thought) and with a bright future ahead but Rachel was far from content. When James Devlin started working alongside her in the bookshop, there was an immediate connection between them. In a very short space of time, Rachel was single and moving into a house in the warren of streets, near Cork’s infamous Shandon Bells, with her now best friend, James. Together they made plans for a bright future. They knew every detail of each other’s lives and had an unbreakable connection that clicked into place immediately.
Now Rachel lives in London. She has a job and a life that has turned out unexpectedly well for her but when she receives a piece of news, her mind is thrown back to those heady days and the turbulent events of her final year in college. With stunning and accurate descriptions, Caroline O’ Donoghue brings Cork alive, taking the reader on a scintillating and, at times, heart-breaking journey as Rachel struggles through a very challenging year.
During this period of time, Rachel had what she thought was a crush on one of her professors, Dr Byrne. James and Rachel devised plots and scenarios allowing for Rachel to cross his path but neither could have foreseen the direction this infatuation would take them in.
Although a completely different story, The Rachel Incident, with its strong Cork setting ,reminded me of The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin mixed in with the writings of Sally Rooney and Naoise Dolan. This book is about the complexities of life in your early twenties but written from a very fresh and entertaining viewpoint. Rachel doesn’t wallow in self-pity. She deals with what life throws at her. She’s smart, witty and warm-hearted and is very clear about where her loyalty lies. Although her decisions are not always wise, she stands over them, accepting her mistakes and the results of said mistakes.
Caroline O’ Donoghue frames this novel perfectly with the social and political dynamics of the time. She has written a coming-of-age novel with so many aspects that many of us can relate to and empathise with. We have all made mistakes in our twenties. We can all look back at the pure stupidity of some of our actions. Caroline O’ Donoghue encapsulates a time in all our lives, that time when many of us had a last hurrah before putting on our big pants and stepping out into the world of adulting.
The Rachel Incident is unflinching, completely engaging, intelligent and perfectly bedraggled. Chaotic and nostalgic, Caroline O’ Donoghue has written a delicious novel with wonderful and authentically flawed characters. I loved it!!
[ Bio ]
Caroline O’Donoghue is a New York Times best-selling author and the host of the award-winningpodcast Sentimental Garbage. She haswritten two novels for adults, Promising Young Women, which was shortlisted for the AN Post Irish Book Awards – Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year,and Scenes of a Graphic Nature, which was longlisted for the Ondaatje Prize. She was also longlisted for the supernatural series for teenagers, All Our Hidden Gifts. She was born in Ireland and currently lives in London.