- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
Molly Allgood is dying. Joseph O'Connor's new novel Ghost Light follows her through her almost-last day -- a bitter one in war-exhausted 1952 London -- as the aged Irish actress rises, considers how she may get enough food to get her through the day, and enough booze to make her want to -- until her role that evening in a BBC radio play taken from one of the works of her late lover the playwright J.M. Synge.
As Molly makes her way from one small victory or defeat to the next, she reminisces about Synge and his colleagues Lady Gregory and William Butler Yeats, the demigods of the Abbey Theatre in Edwardian Dublin. That is all that happens.
But O'Connor is a word-weaver of a high order. This sad, simple story is told in sentences that are lush and sprightly, and his ability to give voice -- more properly, voices to Molly -- as a prim teenager, a salty-tongued ingenue, and a grande dame of the theater, is a tour de force.
Allgood was real, and she did have a relationship with Synge. Her sister Sara was a well-known Hollywood character actress. But O'Connor has not written a historical novel. In British theater, a single bare bulb is left burning onstage overnight so that the theater's ghosts may perform their own plays. O'Connor's tale is Molly's own theater of ghosts, performing with her one last time before she goes to join them.