The Ghost Estate

John Connell

The Ghost Estate
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The Ghost Estate

John Connell

Gerard McQuaid has been waiting for his start in life: his house, his girl, his land. And with rural Ireland being swept up by the Celtic Tiger and villages becoming towns, the electrician’s moment has finally arrived. With the chance to run a big job, McQuaid finds himself on Birchview Manor, a decrepit estate where the dreams of modern Ireland crash up against the weight of history. As McQuaid gets further into the restoration, he falls deeper into the story of the estate’s previous owner, Lord Henry Lefoyle, whose fate begins to loom ghost-like over McQuaid’s own.

In this electrifying debut from a bold new Irish voice, John Connell deftly treads the footsteps of one ordinary man’s rise and fall through the boom and bust of contemporary Ireland, weaving past and present together in a beautiful and devastating journey.

Review

Born in County Longford, Ireland, award-winning journalist, John Connell currently resides in Sydney. However, it is to his home town of Longford that Connell returns for the setting of his first novel, The Ghost Estate. Intended to be a novella for inclusion in a collection of short stories, Connell says the idea for The Ghost Estate just popped into his head one day and it wouldn’t go away – he just had to write it.

The story is set in contemporary Ireland during the time of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, when the country was experiencing unprecedented economic growth. Gerard McQuaid, a young electrician, wants to take advantage of Ireland’s building boom to set himself up for life. He plans to get enough money together to build his dream home for himself and his girlfriend. His boss has handed over the business to him and he and his small team of workers are hired to work on the redevelopment of the run down estate of Birchview Manor. As he works, McQuaid hears the story of the manor’s original owner, Henry Lefoyle, who owned the estate during the 1800s, a time of great upheaval in Ireland. As McQuaid learns of Lefoyle’s fate, his own life begins to unravel. The GFC hits Ireland, building works come to a standstill, workers are laid off and Birchview Manor is left derelict once again.

While The Ghost Estate isn’t the greatest piece of Irish literature I’ve ever read, there is still something quite endearing about it. Connell manages to capture the spirit of the Irish builder and of Ireland itself at a time when the future looked prosperous. In many ways it is also a social commentary, showing how ordinary people are very much at the mercy of politicians who don’t always have their best interests at heart.


Sharon Peterson is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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