‘The poignant story of a family of Irish women who are each looking for the real meaning of home’
– The Ghostlights
[ About the Book ]
Can anyone really choose to be forgotten?
An elderly gentleman checks into a B&B in a small village in rural Ireland where he knows nobody. Four days later, his body is found in the lake. The identity of their unknown guest raises questions for one family in particular, twin sisters Liv and Marianne, and their mother, Ethel, each of whom is searching for her own place in the world.
The Ghostlights brilliantly evokes the lives of the people in the town and explores the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy. What is identity? And strangerhood? What is the meaning of home, and what power do we have over whether or not we are remembered?
[ My Review ]
The Ghostlights by Gráinne Murphy was published September 2021 with Legend Press and is described as a ‘beautiful literary novel inspired by real events‘. In the Author’s Note, there is a reference to a case, in 2009, when a body was discovered on a Sligo beach. The individual had used a false name, Peter Bergmann, when checking in to his accommodation. To this day his real identity remains unknown.
1985 was the year I really became aware of the notion of ‘The Moving Statue’ when news broke of a Marian apparition in Ballinspittle, Co. Cork. Folk flocked to this small village in the hope of seeing Our Lady move and it soon became a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Studies were carried out and University College Cork christened it the ‘Ballinspittle Phenomenon’, stating that it was an optical illusion, a mere trick of the light. Whatever the reason, as other unusual sightings were witnessed in various locations around the country, there was a strengthening of faith among many who were struggling with the hardships that the 1980s brought to many homes.
Gráinne Murphy, inspired by Peter Bergmann and these Marian sightings, brings her readers to the village of Coolaroone. A rural community, Coolaroone was one of those places that had born witness to a moving statue at their grotto. For years the crowds arrived in their droves, to pray and to find solace in the presence of this miracle. After all the years, there are still those that pass through and say a prayer.
A family-run B&B is where the focus of The Ghostlights is centred. Liv and Marianne, twin sisters, now live two very separate lives. Marianne went to university and left village life behind her as she established a successful business career in Dublin. Liv stayed at home with their parents and settled into a life that she had never envisioned for herself. When their father, Martin, passed away, their mother Ethel stepped up but Ethel, now a little too fond of the drink, hasn’t been coping well and, over the years, the responsibility of the B&B has slowly switched over to Liv.
It’s Easter week and Marianne arrives back to Coolaroone for a break. Marianne needs time to process her life and surely the best place for this is at home, back with the family? Liv and Marianne have verbal spats, as you would expect from twins, but this time something else lurks under the covers.
When a stranger checks into the B&B for a few days, no warning flags are raised. He is a pleasant sort, foreign accent and keeps to himself. An undemanding character all told. He likes to be by the lake at peace with his surroundings. But Coolaroone is a village in shock when his body is discovered in the lake. Questions are asked of his identity, his family and suddenly Marianne, Liv and Ethel are faced with questions about their own lives and how their futures will play out.
The Ghostlights is a beautifully understated novel. It is a story about a regular family dealing with the complexities of the everyday. Gráinne Murphy brings all the characters very much to life with her warm and witty dialogue, while also delving deep into lives of a rural community. Grief, regret, resentment and loss are among the themes explored with an overriding sense of moments lost, dreams never fulfilled, ambitions thwarted. There is a strong religious element throughout but not in any overbearing sense and very much in keeping with the Easter traditions of an Irish Catholic parish. There is great empathy in Gráinne Murphy’s handling of all the various personalities, leaving room for all types to feature, just as they surely would in real life. Folklore, superstition and the whispers of a village all combine to create a really authentic and atmospheric reading experience.
For any fans of Donal Ryan, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of The Ghostlights. Gráinne Murphy’s compassion and understanding of the Irish psyche is superbly captured through her written word. A poignant and wistful novel, The Ghostlights will resonate with many. It is an astute observational tale of village life in all its colours.
[ Bio ]
Gráinne Murphy grew up in rural west Cork, Ireland. At university she studied Applied Psychology and forensic research, then worked for a number of years in Human Resources. In 2011 she moved with her family to Brussels, where she lived for 5 years.
She has now returned to West Cork, working as a self-employed language editor specialising in human rights and environmental issues.