Review: Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling: Just a Small-Town Girl Living in a Notions World by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Opening sentence: “Your one Aisling is absolutely gas, isn’t she?”

You may have got a hint from the title, this book is very Irish. What I mean by that is it’s jam-packed full of Irish colloquial language (‘Jesus, Maj, you’re some hames’), legendary Irish places (Coppers nightclub – this article titled ‘12 reason why Coppers is such a bizarre national phenomenon‘ should explain all ), much loved Irish events (The Rose of Tralee), Irish sport (camogie) and native names (10 points to any non-Irish person who can pronounce one of the main characters: Sadbhb. No? It’s ‘sive’, rhymes with five.)

I’ve never included a little dictionary in a review before, but if you’re not Irish, or have never been to Ireland, you might need this quick guide to the Irish words and references that pop up in the book, to save yourself the bother of Googling as you read:

    • ‘Bressie’ Niall Breslin – Irish celeb – musician, TV personality
    • Camogie – women’s stick and ball team sport game. Hurling is the male version.
    • Craythur – a version of creature but used as a term of sympathy / empathy, ‘And was he OK, the poor craythur?’
    • Faboo – fabulous
    • Gaeltacht – an Irish-language word to describe a primarily Irish-speaking region.
    • Gaisce – a personal development award for 15-25 year olds.
    • Gas – very funny
    • Gom – an idiot
    • Hames – to mess up something / be a mess
    • Hurling – men’s stick and ball team sport game. Camogie is the female version.
    • Like the clappers – to go really quickly
    • Lobbed the gob – to kiss
    • Notions – when people have ideas above their station, ‘Niamh Hatton is the human embodiment of notions.’
    • Shift – to kiss passionately / drunkenly
    • West Coast Cooler – a white wine and fruit mix drink.

Now, who exactly is a complete Aisling? Well, the authors, ‘pulled together the many traits, characteristics and quirks of a very particular type of Irish girl.’ Our lead character, Aisling (obviously) is from a small village (Ballygobbard) in the country and drives up to Dublin for her sensible job at a pension company. We get to find out exactly who a complete Aisling is through her, but the generic term is neatly described in the book, ‘My brother has actually just started going out with one of them, a complete Aisling. He met her in Flannery’s – she’s a primary school teacher from Leitrim. Goes home every weekend to play camogie and has a lot of strong opinions about tea.’

Our Aisling has her life planned out, she’ll marry John, her (hurling playing) boyfriend of seven years, they’ll build their own house on a plot of land in the country and pop out a few kids. But when John doesn’t propose, and makes it clear he as no intention of doing so, she takes a brave step (for Aisling): She dumps John and moves in with her cool work colleague, Sadbhb, in a swish Dublin flat. The story then follows her through her new wealth of experiences (dating, Mom jeans, Berlin techno clubs) and there’s a really sweet character development as she thinks about what exactly it is she really wants from life.

Interestingly, the idea for this book started out as a Facebook group that the authors set up to swap anecdotes about the ‘Aislings’ they knew in real life. Soon thousands of people joined in and they realised Aisling was a cultural phenomenon, so she became a book. Written in a purely positive tone, this is a celebration of Aisling, a joyous take on a unique Irish character and not malicious towards this kind of person in any way.

So easy to read, hilarious and unexpectedly emotional, I even found myself tearing up a few times towards the end. I just loved Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling from the opening sentence, with its contemporary Irish characters and voice, it might seem like it has a very specific audience, but most of us have a little Aisling in us somewhere, which is what makes this book so relatable and enjoyable.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Published 3rd May 2018.

Rating: 4/5

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