Adele Nicola Cassidy
We all know Fred Astaire, but not many of us remember his older sister, Adele Astaire, herself a dancer and entertainer with an illustrious career. Interestingly, when both she and Fred started off in stage school as children, it was Adele who was considered the more talented of the two.
Nicola Cassidy has written a gorgeous novel about Adele, using the research of her life by fictional American journalist Elli Morgan in the 1970’s. Ellie travels to Omaha, Nebraska, Adele’s home town, to interview those who remember the Astaire children. The scenes shift between Omaha and New York, following Adele’s and Fred’s move there as very young children to train in a prestigious Broadway stage school.
Later a third character, Patricia Ryan, is introduced. Patricia works as a housemaid in Lismore Castle in Co Waterford, a castle which will eventually become Adele Astaire’s home.
Cassidy has captured the eras from the early 1900’s up to the 1970’s with immaculate attention to detail, but she has exceeded that. This is a full immersion experience of the glory days of the golden screen, as well as of the sumptuous lifestyle of Anglo-Irish landed gentry like Adele’s husband, Lord Cavendish, owner of Lismore. Adele’s links to Ireland and Lismore are deftly woven into this innovative work. If you enjoyed Hazel Gaynor’s and Heather Webb’s recent novel about Grace Kelly, Meet Me in Monaco, you’ll love Adele.
Ireland’s Forgotten Past Turtle Bunbury
Thames & Hudson €19.99
Well-known Irish historian, broadcaster and presenter Turtle Bunbury has gathered stories of ‘the overlooked and disremembered’ in this charming book, spanning eras from the megalithics up to the twentieth century. Meath features quite a bit, with stories of the Bronze Age passage tombs at Loughcrew and the Áenach Taliteann games at Telltown, the presence of Roman traders at Newgrange and Tara, the stone church at Ardbraccan burned by the Viking king of Dublin, and the 10,000 pilgrims who turned up at St John’ Well at Warrenstown on St John’s Day 1710.
Many of these tales are as humourous as they are surprising, mostly those of eighteenth-century Dublin, which makes our present-day capital appear as pure as the driven snow by comparison. Entertaining and engaging, a great book for history fans.