Read The Lives of Women by Christine Dwyer Hickey Online


Following a long absence spent in New York, Elaine Nichols returns to her childhood home to live with her invalid father and his geriatric Alsatian dog. The house backing on to theirs is sold and as she watches the old furniture being removed, she is taken back to a summer in the 1970's when she was almost sixteen and this small out-of-town estate was an enclave for womenFollowing a long absence spent in New York, Elaine Nichols returns to her childhood home to live with her invalid father and his geriatric Alsatian dog. The house backing on to theirs is sold and as she watches the old furniture being removed, she is taken back to a summer in the 1970's when she was almost sixteen and this small out-of-town estate was an enclave for women and children while the men are mysterious shadows who leave every day for the outside world.The women are isolated but keep their loneliness and frustrations hidden behind a veneer of suburban respectability. When an American divorcee and her daughter move into the estate this veneer begins to crack. The women learn how to socialise, how to drink martinis, how to care less about their wifely and maternal duties.While the women are distracted, Elaine and her friends find their own entry into the adult world. The result is a tragic event that will mark the rest of Elaine's life and be the cause of her long and guilt-ridden exile.Insightful and full of suspense, this is an uncompromising portrayal of the suburbs and the cruelties brought about by the demands of respectability....

Title : The Lives of Women
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781782390053
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Lives of Women Reviews

  • Barbara
    2018-10-03 11:29

    Set in a Dublin suburb, the book spans several decades. The woman at the center of the story is Elaine Nichols who leaves home as a teen, and returns from New York as a woman in her early 50's. She comes home to care for her elderly father, a wheelchair-bound former judge.In this novel, suburbia is a desert, a place devoid of life, culture, and joy. We don't learn many details of Elaine's life until the last 25 or so pages. She has had a career, but a lonely life. There is a sense at the end of the book that it has been a life curtailed by her unhappy childhood, and unloving mother. And perhaps, tragically, it has been a life that was wasted because of thwarted relationships, and a life in exile.

  • Ellie M
    2018-09-19 14:43

    I was given a review copy by the publishers after showing an interest. I thought the premise of the book sounded interesting and it definitely lived up to my expectations.This is in a sense a coming-of-age novel, but it is also a retrospective. We are introduced to the character of Elaine who has returned to her family home to care for her father, after the death of her mother. We are made aware that Elaine hasn't been home for quite a while, and hasn't had much contact with them either because of something that happened in the past. Told through alternating past and present chapters, what happened in the past is slowly revealed, although it was left slightly open about what did happen and certain things were speculated but never directly answered, which I liked.Called The Lives of Women the author reflects on how a young girl perceived the role of women in her small community, and how they interact with men. The men generally headed off to work each morning, whilst the women led more secretive lives. And the women had to keep secrets for fear of being shamed in society. The arrival of an 'artistic' American and her more causal attitude led to afternoon drinks parties, and growing sense of confidence, which I thought was to be dampened by the events later. Overall this is a very enjoyable read. Difficult to not give too much away and spoil the story for other readers. Enjoy!

  • Kimbofo
    2018-09-30 13:26

    Christine Dwyer Hickey may possibly be Ireland’s most under-rated writer. She’s written seven novels — I’ve read the oh-so brilliant but heart-breaking Tatty and the inventive award-winning The Cold Eye of Heaven — as well as a short story collection and a (newly published) play.The Lives of Women, her latest novel, is right up there with my favourite reads of the year so far. It’s the kind of book that hooks you right from the start and then keeps you on tenterhooks throughout. I started reading it on a Sunday morning and then had to make a difficult decision about whether to put it aside to finish my chores and planned errands or to stay indoors and finish it. I chose the latter.When the book opens we meet Elaine Nicols, a woman in her late 40s, who has returned to her childhood home in suburban Ireland after a long exile in New York. Her mother has recently died — she missed the funeral, deliberately as it turns out — and she needs to make sure her invalid and uncommunicative father and his ageing Alsatian are okay before returning to the States.One day, while airing the attic, she notices that the house backing on to her father’s has been sold. As its contents begin to pile up in the garden, she keeps “thinking about something that happened more than 30 years ago” which continues to haunt her.The novel then swings backwards and forwards in time, building up a portrait of a dysfunctional family living in a hotbed of other dysfunctional families on a small suburban housing estate where everyone knows everyone else’s business.There are constant hints that something tragic happened, which resulted in 16-year-old Elaine being “disowned” by her parents and sent away to live on the other side of the Atlantic with next to no family contact. But what we don’t know is what caused such an extreme parental reaction, and it is this extraordinary build up of suspense that makes The Lives of Women such a page-turner.To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

  • Mary Lou
    2018-09-25 12:22

    Elaine, dispatched in haste to New York in the wake of an unspecified scandal when she was sixteen, returns home to Ireland for the first, for her mother’s funeral thirty years on. The chapters alternate between then and now, and the story of her teenage years in the suburbs unfolds.Christine Dwyer Hickey shows as always, her gift for examining dysfunctional family life, missed chances, suppressed emotion, loveless marriages, pressure of keeping up appearances, lack of forgiveness and of course the demon drink. This is not the darkest of her books, but the enchantment is in the suspense leading up to it, rather than the final reveal.

  • Jaclyn Crupi
    2018-10-02 14:15

    3.5 stars. A slow building novel where nothing much happens until the very end where we find out that so much had happened. Lovely gentle writing. It explores the female characters in great depth while drawing only sketches of the male characters who come and go. It's about childhood friendships and the choices/mistakes we make in childhood that mark us for life. I'm enjoying my run of Irish novelists.

  • Snoakes
    2018-10-01 15:14

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. It's a dual narrative with chapters alternating between past and present, set in a stifling suburban cul-de-sac. Both strands slowly edge towards revealing the tragedy that changed everyone's lives.I love this structure in a novel. The writing is excellent and the characters well-rounded and believable - particularly the middle-aged Elaine in the present.

  • Lesley
    2018-10-03 12:29

    Despite the often elegant writing I found myself skip reading many pages, desperate for something to happen. When it did, right towards the end, it left me with so many unanswered questions that I felt dissatisfied. A read that for me didn't really fulfill its potential, I'm afraid.

  • Ellen
    2018-09-23 08:42

    Compelling as the story slowly unfolds. I *loved* her turn of phrase - the idea of the dog farting and 'appalling the air' almost made me laugh out loud, and there were lots of other moments where I was nodding appreciatively at exactly the right word used to describe a situation. The character of Elaine was sufficiently intriguing, but I did want more at the end. I'm usually a fan of hanging endings, but this left a little too much to my imagination.

  • Molly
    2018-10-04 13:39

    I found the book extremely choppy. Withholding the major event until the end was frustrating to the reader. How can we sympathize with any of the characters if we don't what has happened. The mother daughter relationship was interested and heartbreaking.

  • Tanya Farrelly
    2018-09-24 15:26

    The Lives of Women follows the protagonist, Elaine, though two different time periods: summer/winter past and present. The present chapters are told in the first person, whereas the past chapters are told in the third, lending the objectivity to the narrative. Elaine returns from New York after an absence of many years to care for her elderly father. She is catapulted back to the past, recalling neighbours, and events that unfolded in her small suburban neighbourhood. In the opening we learn that something happened at the Shillman's house many years perviously. Our intrigue is piqued - but we remain in the dark as to that event until the very end of the novel. Christine Dwyer Hickey is a keenly observant writer. Her characters are absolutely believable. I would rate her on a par with laureate, Anne Enright. Fabulous story-telling.

  • Declan Treanor
    2018-09-28 09:18

    I bought this for my girlfriend, after hearing a glowing review on the radio. She loved it and thought I would get a kick out of it. It was a solid read. The language was a bit flowery at times for my liking but not wasted words; no metaphors and similes for the sake of it, in fairness. It was set in south Dublin, according to a review I read afterwards; I had to find that out online because I had no idea. There are parts that are clearly set in Paris and New York (it says so), but the heart of the book is set in some well-to-do suburb in someplace. I am Irish myself and maybe this leafy suburb is very different to where I'm from because, apart from a few colloquialisms, it felt like a stereotypical American suburb (from the telly) that was being described. Granted, maybe South Dublin really was like that back in the day. The build up and flirtation with the BIG event that happened in the story grated on me after a while. I really wanted to know what happened for the first 2/3 but by the end I was thinking 'oh just get it over with, I know it's going to be disappointing'. I was right (obviously that doesn't mean you will be disappointed). I mean I was right that I would be disappointed. It had been built up too much for me.

  • Anne Goodwin
    2018-10-12 15:15

    Following the death of her mother, Elaine returns to her childhood home to care for her disabled father and aged dog after an absence of over thirty years. Her feelings are at best ambivalent (p10):He arrives to heel, an old dog again, half-blind and utterly exhausted, then he folds himself down on the ground and looks at me sideways, as if ashamed of his own frailty. And I find myself wondering which I will be left with in the end, the dog or my father, then try not to think which one I’d prefer.The enclave of absent men and frustrated women, the suburban homes hide their quiet violence beneath a mask of respectability (p40):Some detached, some semi-detached. Redbrick to steep roof. Some gardens bigger than others. Apron of lawn front and back; elbows of lawn at the sides of a detached house. A driveway. Square pillars, double gate. A hedge to the front: not so high that the house could hide behind it, but not so low that a child could climb up and hurt itself – or, worse, ruin the line of the hedge.Full review

  • Mary Crawford
    2018-10-03 09:32

    This is Elaine's story of her childhood and adolescence in a housing estate where women stay at home and men go off in the morning to do whatever it is that men do. Into this isolated life, which includes a period of hospitalisation, arrive an American divorcee and her daughter. The dynamics of life then begin to change for the women of the estate with golf lessons and afternoon drink soirées. This also has an impact on the interactions of the daughters of these women. This is partly a coming of age novel but also tells of the present day situation Elaine finds herself in. Her relationship with her parents is definitively changed as a result of something that is alluded to throughout the novel and partially revealed at the end of the novel. Lovely writing and engaging right from the start.

  • Jess Harte
    2018-10-03 09:24

    Dwyer-Hickey highlights the invisible dysfunction of the 70s Dublin suburbs in this incredible tale of guilt, friendship and loss. Though most characters are awfully flawed, it's hard not to be enthralled by the lives of Elaine and those surrounding her. We are presented with an underlying darkness from the beginning in the sinister description of the Shillman house, which remains like a fog in the background of the story as Elaine's unspeakable secret is hinted at.Though at times slow, everything is wrapped up seamlessly when we learn Elaine's terrible and dark secret, what we've been waiting the whole novel to discover. Full of suspense, edge and a few gems of description, this novel is definitely worth reading.

  • Tina Horowitz
    2018-09-20 09:20

    The story moves between the past and the present and I found it difficult to keep track of characters and events until the end of the book. Then I had to go back to the beginning to reconstruct what happened and how the characters were related to each other. I found the main character unlikeable at points although she was complex and a product of her experiences and family life. The book moved slowly at times. But when I finished, I was blown away. Once the story made sense, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Overall, I am glad I finished it just for the ending although at times I found it difficult to get through.

  • zespri
    2018-10-03 10:32

    A great find at my local library. I liked the picture on the front, which probably says something about me rather that the book's binding !Once I started the book I was hooked. The story is set in an Irish suburb, the men head out to work in the morning, and the women potter about at home. Until the arrival of an American divorcee and her daughter, wordly wise and interesting. Throughout the book 'an event' is alluded to, and it is this constant reference that gives the book a sense of darkness and foreboding.

  • Katrina
    2018-10-01 07:40

    Okay page-turner, but the setting was just so off. Halfway through I became convinced that there was no way it was written by someone from the US, even though it is nominally set there. Finding out the author was Irish vindicated that - but it didn't even sound like it was written by someone who watches American television. "Poor mums"? People who work at the "chippie"? (view spoiler)[ religious homes for unwed mothers, decade unclear but possibly the 70s? (hide spoiler)]. It was jarring.

  • Maxine Bailey
    2018-10-03 10:28

    Something happens in a vintage Irish suburb and is revisited by one of the group as an adult. The writing style is matter of fact and you question if something actually happened. Maybe living in the suburbs is the issue. Maybe, it was just teenage angst. You are drawn into the various characters of the housewives, the husbands, and the possibly dangerous children of this neighbourhood.

  • Rubyryan
    2018-09-30 09:16

    This book has numerous themes including family dysfunction, social and personal isolation, loneliness, conformity and friendship. The lives of women in the seventies and eighties were curtailed by both government and social 'laws' and it's important for Ireland to acknowledge this curtailment and it's significant impact on those women and their children. It's a very human intense cathartic read.

  • Ruth Brumby
    2018-10-05 13:25

    An absolutely convincing voice, that took me to a world I recognised as real. This book made me think and feel in a totally novelistic way through the thread of the story and through the characters. I all be looking out for other books by this author.

  • Erin Vance
    2018-09-26 14:27

    This book is a mix of suburban gothic, coming of age, and mystery. It's impossible to put down and I'll be thinking about it for years and years.

  • Caroline
    2018-10-04 12:36

    Very enjoyable skewering of the respectable Dublin middle classes of the 1970's..

  • Kate Gough
    2018-10-05 08:16

    Throughly enjoyed this Brilliant Book , will have to read it again as I was in such a rush to find the answer !! But I didn't but I have a few suspects.