The Terrace is Maria Duffy’s second novel and, like her debut Any Dream Will Do, is set in Duffy’s home town of Dublin. However, Duffy is by no means giving us more of the same. WithThe Terrace, she bravely moves into entirely new territory, leaving behind the single-thirty-something angst of her debut’s heroine and taking us into the intriguing lives of the many and varied residents of St Enda’s Terrace.
In essence, The Terrace is about a small, close-knit community who practically live in each other’s homes; a nostalgic look back on days when borrowing a cup of sugar or knocking on the neighbour’s door for some tea and sympathy was the norm. It is also about what happens to those comfortable relationships between friends and neighbours when, as a lottery syndicate, they can’t find their missing – winning – ticket. Add in the fact that a US-based TV company have just arrived in St. Enda’s to make a documentary about the wonderful community spirit in this unique street, and there is already plenty to keep the reader turning the pages.
Through her lead characters of Maggie, Lorraine and camper than camp Marco (whose designer dog, Mimi, deserves a novel all of her own), and with the addition of other characters who all contribute to a strong cast list, Duffy creates some intriguing and realistic personal dilemmas. Essentially, she asks us to consider what we would really find if we could pull back the net curtains on the people we live next door to. Do we really know these people as well as we think we do? Can we trust the people we see every day of our lives – especially when everyone seems to have a clear motive for wanting to keep the winnings to themselves?
In The Terrace, Duffy demonstrates, once again, her ability to incorporate sharply observed humour into her writing. It is a raw, honest, Dublin wit which those who live there will recognise instantly, and which those who don’t, will appreciate anyway. Duffy also ups the ante from her first novel by writing in the occasional ‘bedroom’ scene. Although not quite ‘Fifty Shades’ territory, I suspect we may see more of this in Duffy’s future novels. There are also some great plot twists thrown into the mix.
Duffy seems to have an uncanny knack of tapping into what’s current with her writing. With Any Dream Will Do it was the phenomenon of Twitter. With The Terrace it is a resurgence of community values – or at least a desire to have a little bit of something which we remember our parents having. This is, therefore, a perfectly timed novel.
Pack The Terrace in your beach bag this summer. It is a great read – full of warmth and humour – and you never know; it may make you think twice about those living on your own street!
The Terrace is published by Hachette Ireland.
Follow Maria on Twitter @mduffywriter or on Facebook