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Summary

When a wanted war criminal masquerading as a healer settles in a small west coast Irish village, the community are in thrall. One woman, Fidelma McBride, falls under his spell, and in this searing novel Edna O'Brien charts the consequence of that fatal attraction.

This is a story about love, the artifice of evil and the terrible necessity of accountability in our shattered, damaged world.

©2015 Edna O’Brien (P)2016 W F Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"The great Edna O'Brien has written her masterpiece." (Philip Roth)
" The Little Red Chairs is a daring invention set at the bloody crossroads where worlds collide: savage, tender and true." (John Banville)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A good read..as they say

Heart breaking book. I read it and it made me grateful for my own home and a snippet of understanding of the ache to be able to live in your country of choice with people you can trust. How fragile we are, and attitudes change by the day.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

The horror the horror


I know that for me this book did not work, it has many good attributes but it never managed to engage me with the main character or the message proposed by the book. Fidelma the main character is such a contradiction and so unintelligent sometimes it hurts. The village where the story starts is not real in all its minutiae, the locals discuss the Aenids And Didos dilema or spend time plying A Midsummer Night's Dream. This are not the normal endeavors of working people.
Fidelma applies for a job and finishes the application with a quote by Lord Byron, her african boss likes this and gives her the job as an office cleaner.
Every emigrant character in the story talks of the horrors they have faced openly and with an introspection that is hard to believe; in my experience people that are traumatised by violence and suffering find it very hard to expose or even come to terms with those feeling much less expose them to strangers. They also speak in broken english but with vocabularies that are far beyond a recently acquired second language. All this inequities come across as pretentious and artificial, breaking the reality the writer can create.

It is no secret that the story is about the atrocities in Bosnia, Dr Vlad is well described and a very interesting character but he is not on the book enough to be eloquent about his crimes, he for the most part denies them, but stains fidelma with their encounter and she absorbs a kind of moral responsibility that is just not believable.
The potential in this book was great and it is achieved in some moments with ease with some moving and beautiful passages but they are almost too disparate to create a single body or continuity of plot.

The reader is excellent and deals with the many voices with ease.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

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The Little Red Chairs

A disturbing story and not one that I particularly liked. At times l wasn't sure where Edna O Brien was going with the tail. It felt disjointed and not at all like anything l had read of hers before.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Bleak, depressing and tedious

Like others I find it hard to understand why this book has gained so many adulatory critical reviews. It can only be because it is written by Edna O’Brien and the subject matter is so “worthy “. I found the story very disturbing, which was obviously the author’s intention, but my overall impression of the book was that it was really really boring. Few of the characters were likeable and far too many minor ones were introduced towards the end, each with a long and tedious back story it was very hard to care about.

Juliet Stevenson’s narration was unsurprisingly accomplished, especially her portrayal of different nationalities, however the actual narrative bits often sounded quite pompous, due to the style of writing, which although sometimes lyrical, could often be very overblown and affected, eg, the use of “refrigerator” instead of “fridge “ and “on the morrow” instead of “tomorrow”.

I will be discussing the book with my book group on Monday and I imagine we’ll have a chuckle over our sister book group in the west of Ireland, where a wide cross-section of the villagers intelligently discuss “The Aeneid”, all of them seemingly having actually read the book! I don’t think the same will be true of our book group and this particular book. I had to finish it as I lead the group and I’ve never been so grateful for my Audible subscription in helping me get through it!

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Dire

Awful storyline, strange setting, shallow characters and token shocks. Not up to the usual Edna O’Brien quality.

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  • Jane
  • Slough, United Kingdom
  • 13-09-17

Fabulous narration!

Interesting story, gripping in parts but annoyingly laboured in others. Learned a fair bit about a time in European history that had passed me by, to my shame. Was a very difficult listen in parts because of the atrocities which we all know are still happening throughout the world today. Most humbling. But on a happier note - what a fantastic narrator! I knew Juliet Stevenson is a good actress but - WOW. I still can't believe I wasn't listening to a play with a cast of many. Truly wonderful.

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Not for me

Started off well but lost me soon with its change of focus. I understand the point of this but I couldn't settle and longed to skip forward
Great performance by the narrator though