The Women of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll: Beautifully written, endlessly entertaining, and the perfect accompaniment to summer - book review -

The Women of Primrose Square
The Women of Primrose Square

Primrose Square might seem like a cosy corner of the busy, bustling city of Dublin but behind the doors of its solid old houses, human dramas are played out with the most unexpected results.

Primrose Square might seem like a cosy corner of the busy, bustling city of Dublin but behind the doors of its solid old houses, human dramas are played out with the most unexpected results.

Welcome back to the charming city square – and its rich assortment of eclectic characters ­– where loves, losses, dramas and dilemmas sprung to vivid life last year in Claudia Carroll’s warm and witty novel The Secrets of Primrose Square.

And now we are back to meet up with a few familiar names, and get to know some intriguing new ones, in a return visit to the leafy, lovely street where an outward tranquillity hides a hotbed of shocking secrets and distressing human stories.

Frank Woods, the quiet and unassuming man who lives at number seventy-nine Primrose Square, is supposed to be having a 50th birthday party at home but no one seems able to come… not even his wife and two children who all claim to be occupied elsewhere that evening.

Nicknamed ‘Mr Cellophane’ at work because his colleagues don’t notice whether he’s in the room or not, Frank decides he will instead celebrate at home in a completely different way. What he hadn’t reckoned on was arriving home to his family’s surprise party… only to find that it’s his guests who get the real surprise.

Across the road lives cantankerous, acid-tongued neighbour, Violet Hardcastle (better known as ‘Violent’ to some). A piano teacher with a rapidly dwindling number of pupils, Violet is a keen observer of what goes on in the square and likes nothing better than to send out letters of complaint to her neighbours.

Finding himself alone and believing that he has failed his family, Frank moves in as a lodger with Violet who hasn’t left her home for decades and is badly in need of some money to help the upkeep of her crumbling house.

And before long, there’s another lodger moving in to suffer Violet’s long list of house rules… 40-year-old recovering alcoholic Emily Dunne is fresh out of rehab, embarking on ‘the first day of the rest of her life of sobriety,’ and desperate to make amends to her loved ones.

As gossip spreads through Primrose Square, tragic secrets from the past tumble out, every relationship is tested, and nothing in this close-knit community will ever be the same again…

Irish writer Carroll, author of a raft of fresh and funny novels, and a star of the Dublin-based TV soap opera Fair City, takes us on another of her emotional rollercoaster rides in a story that will make readers both laugh and cry.

Exquisitely drawn characters, serious social and domestic issues, and a fine line in Irish wit have regularly won Carroll a place in the bestsellers lists, and the genuine affection of her army of adoring readers who cannot help but be seduced by her warm and wise way of seeing the world.

The pages of this new story from enchanting Primrose Square come full of insight and compassion as ordinary people experience some of real life’s most emotive, tragic and painful issues. But, in Carroll’s trademark style, there is also love, understanding, humour, community spirit, and the comfort and healing power of friendship.

Beautifully written, endlessly entertaining, and the perfect accompaniment to summer…

(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)