OMGWACA is something of an Irish cultural phenomenon, starting as a facebook group which identified the ‘Aisling’ stereotype. An eminently sensible country girl who works in town, but is just waiting to get married to her boyfriend Generic John, and settle down on the family farm (there’s a plot already picked out for them with good road frontage) and pop out a few wains. With a cast of other stereotypes, including Majella, her best friend, and posh Sadhbh from work, Aisling’s living the life of a smalltown girl in the big smoke, and trying to have it all.
OMGWACA was *the* book to give this Christmas. I actually got two copies of it – one from my parents, and one from my sister, so I know that I was ready for the complete Aisling experience.
Aisling is twenty-eight and she’s a complete … Aisling. She lives at home in Ballygobbard (or Ballygobackwards, as some gas tickets call it) with her parents and commutes to her good job at PensionsPlus in Dublin.
Aisling goes out every Saturday night with her best friend Majella, who is a bit of a hames (she’s lost two phones already this year – Aisling has never lost a phone).
Aisling spends two nights a week at her boyfriend John’s. He’s from down home and was kiss number seventeen at her twenty-first.
But Aisling wants more. She wants the ring on her finger. She wants the hen with the willy straws. She wants out of her parents’ house, although she’d miss Mammy turning on the electric blanket like clockwork and Daddy taking her car ‘out for a spin’ and bringing it back full of petrol.
When a week in Tenerife with John doesn’t end with the expected engagement, Aisling calls a halt to things and soon she has surprised herself and everyone else by agreeing to move into a three-bed in Portobello with stylish Sadhbh from HR and her friend, the mysterious Elaine.
Newly single and relocated to the big city, life is about to change utterly for this wonderful, strong, surprising and funny girl, who just happens to be a complete Aisling.
Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the creators of the much-loved Aisling character and the popular Facebook page ‘Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling’, bring Aisling to life in their novel about the quintessential country girl in the big smoke.
There was lots in this book that I enjoyed. It had some great character sketches of the types that you meet all the time in Ireland, from the nosy neighbour across the road who always seems to be doing better than you are, to the mammy who just wants to feed all your friends until they explode. And those character sketches were great. They were almost all in the first half of the book, and I found myself smiling wryly at many of them, as I recognised aspects of people I know (and myself) in them.
There were also underlying threads of plot that were great – the second half tackled some heavy issues with a delicate touch, and intertwined a lot of different plot threads deftly. There was some lovely examination of family relationships, supportive friendships, and the different ways in which people can show their support in tough times. These were all in the latter half of the book.
And therein lay my issue. This book was two different things – a collection of character sketches, and a touching story of friendship, family, and relationships. But those two halves of the book really weren’t intertwined at all. From the opening pages of the book, where it was all explanatory and quite funny character sketches, there was an abrupt change of tone in the latter half of the book as it all got serious. This left me feeling really quite underwhelmed, because while both halves of the book were quite enjoyable, they didn’t lead to a cohesive story experience.
OMGWACA was #1 on Ireland’s Christmas book list, and has been picked up at auction by Michael Joseph books in the UK. The authors have a second book as part of their publishing deal with Gill, and I’ll be interested to see what they do next.
Aisling felt disjointed and choppy, but there was plenty in there that was really well-done, so I look forward to seeing what comes next out of these two friends.