WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON, £12.99. BUY FOR £11.99 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897
Grandmother Wolf, by Patricia Tyrrell
Unconventional morality tale rooted in war
Thursday 11 August 2005
Her third novel Grandmother Wolf also boasts robust characters, and examines blood ties, loyalty and love. Into the mix, Tyrrell has added the brutalising chaos of the 15-year civil war in Beirut. Thousands of Lebanese vanished or were killed, yet life went on - as Tyrrell shows in this involving, if not wholly successful book.
Madeleine, a French-speaking Maronite Christian, occupies a house on the "green line" dividing East and West Beirut. The walls are cracking, but this elderly widow won't move. She still has two of her four grown-up children dancing attendance on her - angry, unmarried Brigitte and Georges, a Phalangist militiaman and jeweller.
Cynical, caustic and implacable, Madeleine surprises herself by agreeing to a visit from her American grandson Rick, an 18-year-old orphan. But although Rick is about to encounter lives "shaped by necessities he couldn't imagine", it's not just the naïf kid who will change.
Tyrrell creates a credible vision of the "bony lovely ruined city", which cannot function without its fixers; where the car bombs that detonate daily send drivers careering backwards at high speed. Twists in the plot keep the reader surprised, and Tyrrell's strength lies in characters who embrace the moral expediencies of war. Rick's gold-digging girlfriend Solange shocks Rick with her amorality. Madeleine, meanwhile, recognises a kindred spirit and applauds Solange's apparently heartless opportunism.
Rick longs to belong, running errands for his uncle, delivering copper wires and ring settings to colleagues. But when he joins an ambulance crew and Georges goes missing, Rick has his innocent principles blasted from him. Once tested, he feels as corruptible as the next man and knows he could do anything to stay alive.
Although Grandmother Wolf starts strongly, the writing occasionally lacks finesse. Tyrrell hits some targets but misses others, and tries too hard with flamboyant metaphors. More difficult to ignore are various solecisms, which an editor should have spotted. When the author sticks to energetic, brisk sentences, she's at her best.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
comedy Erm...he seems to be back
tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 PlayStation and Xbox hacked by Lizard Squad
- 2 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 3 The Grace Dent Christmas Questionnaire
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
EastEnders Christmas special, review: Brilliant Danny Dyer glues you to your seat
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader