Book Review: The Restaurant by Roisin Meaney

Hachette €16.99

The launch of Roisin Meaney’s seventeenth novel in June was a muted affair, as so many launches have been in these cruel Covid days. It was broadcast live from O’Mahony’s Bookshop in Limerick, one of the first of many similar launches since then, with very few people onsite but plenty raising a glass from home. And plenty of her writing colleagues had pre-recorded their good wishes in order to be ‘present’ for the occasion. To say that Meaney is held in high esteem among her peers would be to understate it. It was quite moving to watch.

Her latest novel is quite moving, too. Emily is a chef who, two years prior to the opening of the story, was left standing at the altar when her husband-to-be absconded to Canada. She has since thrown all of her energy and her money into running a tiny restaurant with just fourteen seats around a single oval table, open for lunch and dinner, one sitting for each, and targeted at single diners.  Business is good and Emily is coming to terms with her circumstances. Until husband-to-be returns from Canada, full of remorse, and Emily slowly falls for him all over again. And this, I think, gets to the crux of how Meaney writes her characters. She doesn’t do cool, clean and shiny, she does flawed and broken and muddling through. Emily is capable of making mistakes. Huge ones. So are virtually all of the characters in this novel. How they deal with the consequences of their respective mistakes is the very fabric of the story.  

Among the writers who paid tribute to Roisin on launch night were Judi Curtin, who said “Roisin creates a world I want to live in”, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald who mentioned the thriving writing community in Limerick and called Meaney “the queen of us all”,  and probably Ireland’s most revered author, Donal Ryan, who said she is “the most generous and empathetic of writers…long may she work her magic”. 

Roisin Meaney raises the bar with every bestseller she writes. The Restaurant is exquisite.

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