Aisling is the decent, Dunnes-shopping heroine we need right now

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling: A hilarious and heart-warming journey with our favourite country girl

The novel by Emer McLysaght (left) and Sarah Breen is based on their hugely successful Facebook page

The novel by Emer McLysaght (left) and Sarah Breen is based on their hugely successful Facebook page

Sat, Oct 28, 2017, 06:00

   
 

Book Title:
Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling: The Novel

ISBN-13:
9780717175536

Author:
Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Publisher:
Gill Books

Guideline Price:
€14.99

“As if anyone in their right mind would have cornflakes at a hotel breakfast buffet.” Six years going to Weight Watchers mean that, from memory, Aisling can tell you the points in any food – probably to the individual cornflake. But the only thing worse than missing a hotel breakfast would be not to try everything at it, especially if it’s included in your Pigsback voucher and you specifically checked.

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling: The Novel (aka OMGWACA) opens with a thrilling race not to miss a post-wedding hotel breakfast which, if the book is ever adapted for the screen, will require stunt people of the highest calibre. (“‘John’, I whisper, my voice shaking, ‘I think we’re going to miss the hotel breakfast.’ My heart was in my mouth, unlike the award-winning sausages, apparently cooling downstairs.”)

Country girl Aisling has been going out with John for seven years. Surely a ring of her own (and the road frontage that’d go with it) is on the cards? That is, despite the legendary rivalry between Ballygobbard (Aisling’s hometown) and Knocknamanagh (John’s). Aisling’s daddy sees them “as a sort of modern-day Romeo and Juliet, but with fewer suicides and with more GAA dinner dances”. They both work up in Dublin, though Aisling’s living down home and commuting right now. Come hell, high water or a congested N7, they’re both home every weekend to hang out with the gang.

She’s no bumpkin

When we meet Aisling, we feel we know her already. Because we do. You don’t have to be a culchie like me to appreciate her foibles (in fact, there are revelatory insights here for city slickers) but if you are, there are extra treats of recognition in store. The kitchen is Mammy’s domain, replete with hidden “good biscuits”, Daddy has a rifle, SUVs are supposed to have calf nuts in them and you are born with an awareness that badgers could take the leg off you.

If Bridget Jones had made her confirmation and had a picture of herself with the bishop, and if she were just plain lovely, that’s Aisling. She’s no bumpkin, though. She’s got a job in finance and it’d be wrong to assume that “…Ballygobbard was…backwards, just because it’s rural”. Aisling is kind and practical, the one who does everyone else’s washing up (“Sure, if I don’t, who will?”). She’s well able to let her (undyed) hair down when she goes Out Out, but strict about the combination of “anti-babby pills” and condoms. You can never be too sure.

Aisling likes to be sure: she’s never been on a holiday she hasn’t booked herself and planned to the minutest detail. For seven years, she’s been quietly counting on her future as a Knock Rangers WAG, living in a McMansion with seven bathrooms. If only John would propose…

Poignant and believable

And then, out of the blue, Aisling is tested. One by one, her certainties start to crumble. She has far more now to deal with than hangovers or food points. Life comes at her fast, even death comes knocking. I had expected this delightful book to be funny and it really, really is. But I never expected the feels. I didn’t expect big fat tears to roll down my country face.

OMGWACA is based on the hugely successful Facebook page set up by authors Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, who identified this particular kind of girl and shared her with the online world. The community swelled quickly; we all know an Aisling or a Niamh from Across the Road (NFATR). Most of us have (or have had) a Memmeh and Deddeh. We instinctively know the life cycle of a Christmas jumper and have spent a family holiday in a shared room in a B&B.

It would have been relatively easy to cut and paste these affectionate, astute observations into a pleasing and fun book of lists, but instead, the authors have given Aisling the flesh and bones she deserves, and a story that licks along at a pace – unlike traffic on the road home on a Friday.

The family relationships, in particular, are poignant and believable and Aisling herself has a relatable emotional journey. What I’m saying is, Wonder Woman is great ‘n all, but Aisling is the decent, Dunnes-shopping heroine we need right now. I hope there is a movie, because I’ll be first in the queue. (I wonder if they’d let me play Mammy?)

“That N7 would have your heart broken.” Well, Aisling has stolen mine.

Tara Flynn is an Irish actor and writer. Her books include You’re Grand: the Irishwoman’s Secret Guide to Life and Giving Out Yards: the Art of Complaint, Irish Style