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When Edward Bull says yes to directing an amateur play Death By Dying, he has no idea just how much his life and the lives of the actors involved will change over the course of the 6 weeks it takes to get the play up to scratch. First there's sisters Ellen and Marie, one still stung with grief over the death of her boyfriend while the other stays in her loveless marriage because she doesn't know how to leave. Then there's Judith, whose all alone since her son headed to Greece months earlier. Robert thinks he has the life he always wanted, until something come along to threaten everything he's made. Harry is lonely, with only his ailing ma with him, and is shy to boot. And finally there's Theo, happy in her relationship but struggling to come to terms with being a step-mother. As the curtain call draws closer, can these 7 people sort out their real life difficulties and manage to put on the performance of their lives in Death By Dying?
For a while now I've been wanting to read one of Irish writer Roisin Meaney's novels. Her books look great but I've found it difficult to get hold of her books. When I was in England though I managed to pick up Half Seven on a Thursday for about £2, and brought it back to Tenerife with me. It's taken me a long while to finally pick it up, but I was having a reading lull, not sure what I wanted to read, and picked this up on a whim and instantly became captured by the book, which is always nice.
Half Seven on a Thursday is a strange title for a book, but that's the time and date in which our characters meet up to rehearse for the play they're putting on so it makes perfect sense now I've read the book. The book itself starts very well, with a casting call put out for amateur actors to come and audition for the play, and we then meet our seven main characters: Edward, who is the director, and Ellen, Marie, Harry, Theo, Robert and Judith, who will all star in the play. We then follow their rehearsals each week and between that, we follow each separate character as they face struggles and difficulties in their real lives and we also see how the characters know of each other, even if they've never been properly introduced until that night at the pub when they audition for the play.
Now with seven characters, you'd be right to think that it takes a little while to get your head around who everyone is, along with all the supporting characters. It's made worse by the fact that when they're rehearsing, we get their characters names as well, so I did have to refer back to previous pages to remind myself who everyone was. I did eventually get the hang of it, though, which is always a bonus. In general, I liked all of the characters. None of them were particularly mean, but I obviously liked some more than others. Harry, Marie and Judith were wonderful characters, very subdued and a bit shy, and I suppose that's what drew me to them as I'm a bit like that when I first meet people. Ellen, Edward and Theo were a bit more outspoken but, again, I liked them. Robert was the only one who I had a question mark over, as the synopsis makes him sound like a player, but, no, I think he was mis-represented there a little bit. He was probably my least favourite but he was in no way horrific. The supporting characters were a bit harder to separate as there are so many of them, but again, they were all well written.
Meaney has done a wonderful job to juggle so many different characters and plot lines. There are many different plot lines to follow including marital troubles, affairs, cancer, what it is to have a disable baby, how to deal with a drug-taking son, etc, and I thought Meaney handled them all very well. The book is very well written and I enjoyed reading it. I'll definitely be picking up Meaney's other novels, as I enjoy her ability to juggle so many different things at any one time and I do sometimes yearn for a book with multiple characters. Half Seven on a Thursday is a hugely enjoyable read, and one I would definitely recommend.