This book was published in London and is not available in the US at this point (it is available at Alderman Library). I read about it in the blog Reading Matters, which had an enthusiastic endorsement of it.
The narrator, a successful Irish playwright who lives in London, casually and companionably recounts to us her life and the lives of her friends over the course of a single day. That day is the birthday of her best friend Molly Fox, a successful theatre actress in whose Dublin house the narrator is staying while Molly is in New York. We hear how they met, how the narrator does her work, what she has learned about acting and actors, the story of her connection with her family in Northern Ireland, the story of her friend Andrew and more. The characters, as she tells us about them, have interest, but do not have a dramatic arc. She tells us what she has come to understand about human beings that she has learned over the course of her life.
She and Andrew met in college where he was a dedicated student, determined to escape from the family in Northern Ireland that was completely alien to him. He was "the most patently and successfully self-constructed person I have ever met." Many years passed before he could come to terms with the murder of his brother, a Loyalist paramilitary who may have been a murderer himself. The narrator, although she was not able to live the life of her large Catholic family, remained close and spoke to them frequently by phone, keeping up with all their mundane news. Their formulaic conversation does make for true communication, she says. Molly Fox's beautiful and commanding voice was a significant part of her success on the stage; off stage she was shy and barely able to cope with a crowd of people.
So why is this book so engaging? I can say it is filled with insights into humans lovingly observed, and I felt I was being told a story by an old friend, but that does not convey the artistry of this beautiful book.