Fiction Review: The Marriage Bed

The Marriage Bed
by Regina McBride
Touchstone, Jun 2004, $23.00, 289 pp.
ISBN: 074325497X
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Reviewed by Harriet Klausner

Up until 1907, Dierdre O’Coigligh lived on the impoverish Great Blasket Island off the Irish Coast until she was fourteen when her parents died. She feared the sea and never crossed it until her grandmother left her with no choice. The teen orphan was dumped at the Enfant de Marie Convent on the mainland because her grandmother insisted that she was too old to raise a young lass.

At the Convent, Dierdre meets wealthy novice Bairbre O'Breen, a widowed mother who is a key benefactor. Through Mrs. O’Breen, Deirdre meets Bairbre's brother Manus, an architecture student. He falls in love with Dierdre-and his mother feels she is acceptable as a daughter-in-law. Instead of becoming a nun, seventeen years old Deirdre agrees to marry Manus. After the ceremony, they move to a house in Dublin that his mother furnished. They have two delightful daughters, but Mrs. O'Breen demands a grandson who will be a priest regardless of how the lad or his parents feel because the matriarch has secret scandals that need heavenly intervention to remedy.

THE MARRIAGE BED is a very lucid look at Ireland in the years just prior to World War One. The story line provides the reader with a picturesque glimpse at middle class life and the influence of family on members. Though the secrets seem minor and Mrs. O’Breen’s demands seem easily shrugged off and ignored (maybe this reviewer is the anachronism as perhaps I am using a liberated twenty-first century lens), Regina McBride provides a colorful character study that makes 1910-1914 thriving as if the reader is in Dublin right before the Great War.

Harriet Klausner was born in the Bronx where she obtained a Masters in Library Science. While working in bookstores and with the library, her book reviewing career began to take shape. She takes immense pleasure informing other readers about newcomers or unknown authors who have written superb novels.

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