In Eggshells, Catriona Lally uses the changeling myth to characterize Vivian, a mentally disabled woman who has just inherited her great Aunt’s house in Dublin.
The death of her Aunt leaves Vivian more vulnerable than ever. Her only other relatives is a condescending sister.
Accepting her parents’ myth about her–that she is a changeling, Vivian, embarks on journeys by foot and bus to find a portal to the fairy world.
Vivian is undeniably lonely. One of the first things Vivian does after her Aunt dies is seek a friend. Lacking social skills, she puts out an advertisement for friend named Penelope.
Incredibly, someone answers the ad. Penelope, an artist who is just a little less madcap than Vivian, assists Vivian her with her eccentric schemes.
Though the pace can be slow, this novel will appeal to those who like quirky characters.
She walks around libraries, museums, bridges, cafes and looks for small doors that might lead to a fairy world.
“I pass underneath Merchant’s Arch and close my eyes, hoping for a transformation—an arch is surely as good a portal as any–but the smell of stale piss doesn’t fade to flowers, and the noise of the traffic doesn’t change to fairy bells.”
Much of the charm of the novel is that the character visits real places with odd place names. There really is a Yellow road and Emerald street in Dublin. She copies graffiti into her notebook, looking for patterns and “thin places” where the real world and the fairy world intersect.
She walks up the quays towards O’Connell Bridge and Bride street near the place where St. Patrick baptized local inhabitants. She goes to the Chester Beatty Library to look at magical things and the dervish dance. Yet, even doing a whirling dervish dance doesn’t result in a transformation.
Eggshells was the 2018 winner of the Rooney Prize for Literature.