For those of you who read my blog often (THANK YOU!), you will know that I am a fan of Irish novels. Frances Macken’s first novel did not disappoint – what a debut!
Set in the tiny rural town of Glenbruff, You have to make your own fun around here follows three friends Katie, Maeve and Evelyn.
Told from Katie’s point of view, it highlights the differences in aspirations from their childhood, through to their teenage years and young adulthood. I liked how Macken reminded me of the childhood experiences that see so big when we are younger, such as crushes, which are so trivial upon reflection. She captures tales of romances and true loves as the trio get older, along with a few other folk in Glenbruff.
Katie’s mother makes it clear that in Glenbruff, you have to make your own fun as there isn’t much going on, especially after giving up her own dreams of being an actress before falling in love for an Irish country boy.
Katie is witty and ambitious, but it’s amazing how hers and her friends’ ambitions can change, whilst others are happy accepting the fact not all of us are created for a sole, big purpose – ouch! Whilst others may not share it, I like Katie’s perspective on female friendships and sisterhood, which she experiences with Evelyn and Maeve when in Glenbruff.
Despite her dreams of getting out and going to Dublin, it turns out it isn’t all it is cracked out to be, and not as fun as she had hoped, despite trying to create her own fun.
There’s the typical f*ck boy, Aidan, which I’m sure we have encountered at some point in our childhood, which Katie does when she returns to Glenbruff from Dublin – why does she return? And most importantly, has she learned what type of person Aidan really is?
I’m not sure we have all experienced a missing school girl, where there is a dark side to this novel with not a lot of focus, where student Pamela Coomey goes missing.
I like Katie’s experience in Dublin, where it isn’t the fairytale she hoped it would be, despite the grace of sisters Nuala and Norma letting her off a few months’ rent as she pursues her ambition of working in film – but oh, how let down she is of that too!
The novel is wholly uplifting and honest: there are betrayals, it’s dark, unpredictable and comprised of jealousy and guilt. All things we have surely encountered in our lifetimes.
It’s a real coming of age novel which focuses on people and places that shape a person. Again, it’s one of those novels where not a lot happens and there is no key plot, apart from wondering if Katie will reach her dream of working in film.
As Irish writer Marian Keyes says of novels she loves, “I recommend it highly!”
Rating – 5/5 ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Genre – bildungsroman, psychological fiction, female fiction, Irish novel, coming of age