• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Mosaic by Caragh Bell

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | General Fiction

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

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Mosaic by Caragh Bell is published with Poolbeg Press and is a romance novel exploring the broken lives of people the world perceives as having it all.

1995, Cork City was home to the iconic music venue, Sir Henry’s and Caragh Bell took me right back there as the story of Mary Kennedy, a young girl with her life ahead of her, is revealed. Mary lived with her father Noel, in the shadow of Cork’s Shandon Bells, in a small terraced house. Her mother had passed away some time back and, together, Noel and Mary did their best to survive every day. But, with Noel now on disability due to a back injury, making ends meet was a struggle. Mary was aware of her Dad’s inability to handle money and cope with the daily challenges of life so where she could she stepped up, assisting with the cooking, the housework and putting any spare cash to one side for household bills. Mary had to grow up fast but she was still a teenager, listening to Nirvana and spending quality girly time with her best friend Viola. The two had planned a night out, an exciting adventure where they would finally see for themselves what the inside of Sir Henry’s was like, with its crowded dance floor and throbbing beats. Unbeknownst to both girls, this seemingly innocent night of fun was to change the course of their lives forever.

Twenty-three years later Irish pop singer Madison Ryan is exhausted. The constant demands on her time and the hectic schedule are taking their toll. Madison is frustrated with this roller-coaster that she now finds herself on and wants to call time on the ‘ditzy girl-next-door’ image that she has portrayed since she first burst onto the music scene with a record deal at sixteen years of age. Madison wants time out to recalibrate herself but her management have very different ideas. Madison is extremely successful, her music loved across the globe. Any change in image and music style could spell disaster for her career and her team are not about to take any risks.

Madison has a fractured relationship with her father. His job meant he was away from home for long periods of time and over the years Madison’s anger grew. She dismissed her mother as weak for the way she lived her life, accepting of her destiny, and now time spent in the family home is kept to a minimum. Madison doesn’t see the point. As a family they live very different lives and when together, only friction and antipathy remains.

The one staple in Madison’s life has always been her best friend Cliona O’ Connor and her family who lived near Madison when growing up in an affluent Dublin suburb.

‘Cliona’s family was like a real family. Sometimes she envied her so much it hurt. Being an only child had its advantages, but there was no one to rub off or argue with.’

When Madison is with The O’ Connor family they pay no heed to her fame, are dismissive of her strict lifestyle and she feels safe there, away from the cameras, trusting completely that Cliona and her family will always have her back. Cliona’s brother Fionn is in college in London. A drumming enthusiast, he joined a student band called Doctor Eckleberg, whose lead singer Caspian Cole has big dreams for a future in music. He wants to take the band beyond the college scene and become something much bigger. But Caspian believes in hard work and that a musician should perfect his trade before launching themselves into the larger music scene. Their music is solid. Their audiences appreciate what they are doing and, being a drummer in the background suits Fionn. Fionn plays music because of his passion for it. Fame and fortune were never his long-term goal.

Mosaic interweaves the lives of Mary Kennedy, Madison Ryan, Cliona and Fionn O’ Connor and Caspian Cole. Love, loss, passion and grief all play out in this story spanning over two decades. Caragh Bell always adds a few cameo appearances of characters from her previous novels, which is a lovely and unexpected discovery, as it reminds you of where they are in life. Mosaic is packed with OTT stereo-typical personalities, Caragh Bell plays with them all beautifully, creating characters that we come to love and dislike in equal measure. Narcissistic celebrities with enormous egos are central figures, as are the high-earning, designer-wearing folk that live in a different realm to most of us. Hidden among these strong personality types are a few gems that see the world from a very different angle and can also see the trajectory and inevitable disappointment that follows the glittering lifestyle when the gloss wears off.

Mosaic isn’t all light and fluffy as it does contain some tragic stories where the lives of characters are upended with shocking news that ultimately changes their world. There are multiple themes featured throughout Mosaic all handled with great sensitivity by Caragh Bell, while running in parallel with the glamour and glitz of the crazy world of the celebrity lifestyle. They are pure escapism, books that allow your imagination to soar, books that provide a much-needed time-out from our chaotic world at the moment. Captivating and glamourous, Mosaic is a charismatic tale of flawed individuals who experience the meaning of self and the meaning of belonging, an entertaining read that captures the heart, with spirited personalities that have ambitions and dreams that will not be tamed.

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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