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This is a review of the 1997 book 'Room for a Single Lady' by Clare Boylan. The book follows three sisters, Bridie, Kitty and Rose and is set in the 1950s. The sisters live with their parents on the outskirts of Dublin and despite their dad's best efforts to hold down a job, their mother often struggles to put a meal on the table for them all. The house has a spare bedroom (all three sisters share) and hence the title, they rent it out to respectable single ladies.
In the book we see things from Rose, the youngest sister's point of view. She wants to be a teenager now like her sisters and is hurt when they leave her out. She is overly curious about the lodgers' lives and likes to go through their things to find clues to their lives. Rose keeps all the mysterious pieces of knowledge about life in her head and tries to work out things like love, relationships, sex and the difference between men and women. The lodgers give her advice about life which makes little sense to her but she mulls on it constantly.
The three sisters are ruled by a very strict father and a mother who wants to keep them all in frilly socks and plaits as her children. She mourns their growing up and tries to maintain their innocence in a world that constantly denies this.
I loved reading this book. Whilst the family consider themselves to be poor, they own their own house and are generous to all their lodgers past and present. Some of the lodgers are extremely weird, one for example pees in jam jars after she is challenged over spending too much time in the bathroom. The book never mentions what she did with her number twos!
Some of the lodgers move on under a cloud and some go and get married in happier circumstances. The girls are invited to houses for tea and the parents worry about them looking scruffy but are reluctant to pay for new outfits.
This book really entertained me and I enjoyed the musings and sharp observations from Rose. Her sisters are often selfish and unthinking but Rose continues to seek their approval which I think a lot of younger siblings really do.
I would recommend this book as a nice nostalgic read. It was not as poverty stricken as Angela's Ashes but it was on those lines and conjures up vivid images of Christmas on a shoestring and the odd treat that came their way..