Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Big Fat Love by Peter Sheridan

This book was recommended to me by my Mum, who had borrowed it from the library the previous week.

Peter Sheridan (brother of Jim) is an Irish author, director and playwright. He wrote and directed the movie The Borstal Boy and several acclaimed plays. Big Fat Love (also known as Every Inch of Her) was first published in Ireland in 2003.

Back Cover:

Are You Ready For Philo?

The nuns at the convent of the Good Shepherd in Dublin's North Wall certainly aren't. But on a quiet Sunday evening they find their peace shattered by an insistent knocking on the front door - and there she is. Weighing in at 240 pounds and covered in tattoos, Philo is hardly an ideal candidate for the sisterhood. Add to that the smoking, swearing and eating, and the nuns have a challenge on their hands.

But she needs refuge, so Sister Rosaleen finds she can't say no, and before long her charity is rewarded. For Philo has a heart every bit as big as her waistband and soon even the most stony-faced North Wall resident is wearing a smile. 

Larger than life in every way, Philo has brought a whole new energy to this beleaguered community. But sooner or later she will need to face up to the cracks in her own life, and the secret she's been running from for as long as she can remember...

Philo is a thirtysomething straight-talking Dublin woman who turns the convent of the Good Shepherd upside down - albeit not always in a bad way. Her influence over the nuns is both funny and touching, in particular one scene involving Sister Rosaleen and cigarettes. Philo has had a hard upbringing and uses food to deal with all of her issues, both past and present. She promises the nuns that if they let her stay, she'll help out in any way she can - and none of them have any idea just how much she will help some of the members of the local community. 

Through helping others, Philo ultimately ends up helping herself - her journey from a lost soul needing refuge to that of an independent woman taking control is an utter joy to read, and you won't be able to put it down. I was rooting for Philo from the very beginning of the book - with a character like this, it's hard not to. It's testament to the writing talent of Peter Sheridan that a man in his early fifties (at the time of writing) could write  the life story of a 30-something mother so perfectly well that I was convinced that Philo was a real person. 

Though the story is one of hope and survival, it also has its dark moments. Philo's matter-of-fact way of recalling horrific past events isn't easy to read at times, but there's so much humour scattered throughout Philo's thoughts and interactions with people that the bad stuff doesn't drag the book down. 

I recommend this book thoroughly - if only to discover the novel way Philo has of getting revenge on some of the people who have done her wrong. 


S xx