Mayo native launches novel set in fictional west of Ireland town
'You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here' is a fiction novel from Mayo native Frances Macken.
Frances grew up in Claremorris and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford University.
The story is set in Glenbruff, a fictional town in the west of Ireland.
Glenbruff is an intriguing place with plenty going on beneath the surface.
There are mysterious occurrences and peculiar people, supernatural incidents and a ghostly landscape featuring a quarry, an abandoned cottage, a burned-out nightclub, a handball alley, and an expanse of eerie bogland.
At the story’s centre are two friends, Katie and Evelyn, who have aspirations to become filmmakers and artists. There’s nothing saccharine about this rivalrous friendship.
Larger-than-life Evelyn is strong-minded and charismatic, with an unwavering self-belief, where the submissive Katie frequently second-guesses herself, believing that she will only attain creative success with Evelyn alongside her.
Evelyn’s cousin Maeve plays a strong supporting role; she’s vulnerable and damaged, and yet we can’t imagine wanting to be friends with her or to be in her presence - there’s just something off about her that we can’t put our finger on.
The disappearance of a schoolgirl, Pamela Cooney, causes us to wonder about the extent of Evelyn’s capacity for badness.
As far as romance goes, both Katie and Evelyn have a love interest living in the town. Evelyn lands the cool and indifferent Peadar, while Katie sets her sights on his brother Aidan, a sympathetic yet troubled individual.
The friendship between Katie and Evelyn waxes and wanes as adolescence comes to a close. Katie moves away from Glenbruff while Evelyn remains behind, and the friendship becomes all the more strained.
Katie makes attempts to forge ahead with her career, but things don’t go as well as she’d hoped. After some years, she returns to Glenbruff with a view to seeking out Evelyn and reigniting the friendship. After all, it was always Evelyn who galvanized Katie’s dreams for the future.
As Katie and Evelyn reacquaint themselves, the shifting power dynamic between them escalates into high drama. Meanwhile, a burgeoning romance between Katie and Aidan is long past its sell-by-date.
The novel details the difficulty of striking out solo in the creative industries, and the increasingly competitive friendship between two girls with audacious ambition.
Themes explored include the outgrowing of friendship, creative rivalry, and the influence of charismatic, difficult people on our lives.
The language is lyrical and evocative, the dialogue vibrant and humorous, with several laugh-out-loud moments along the way.
Depictions of the landscape and townspeople are used to great effect. Katie, Evelyn, and Maeve are complex, unforgettable characters that feel truly authentic.
The read is hugely enjoyable, both profound and humorous, and will resonate with anyone who grew up in a small Irish town.