Caoilinn Hughes is a brilliant writer. I wanted to highlight half the book just for her ability to create literary brilliance. However, despite the brilliance, the plot that I thought that was right up my alley, and the interesting characters, I just couldn’t really get into this book. But as with most books I start, I pushed myself to finish, feeling guilty that I wasn’t rushing to finish while also feeling guilty that I couldn’t just give up, because reading is a pleasure, not a chore, no? Although reading Orchid and the Wasp wasn’t really a chore... Just not exactly enjoyable.
Orchid and the Wasp is the story of Gael Foess, anti-heroine, super smart, annoying, lacking of boundaries, but also extremely protective, and over time even likeable. Her family (orchestral conductor mother, financier father, and mentally unstable younger brother) is dysfunctional to say the least. When her father walks out and her brother has to quit high school Gael seems to hop between leaving her family for good, and being pulled back to help them through tough times. We follow Gael through her teenage years, into her twenties, through Dublin, London and then Manhattan.
Caoilinn Hughes’s writing merits 5 stars, no doubt about it. And for a debut novel this is pretty heavyweight, and a good promise of what she is capable of I think. While Orchid and the Wasp isn’t a novel that I will most likely revisit, it will probably rattle around my brain for a while. I think it will either appeal off the bat to people or not at all. Just know that you probably won’t like any of the characters very much, which is basically part of the plot really. I did however enjoy revisiting the Occupy Wall St protests of 2011 in NYC that I also participated in, and in the end I found that I really had a soft spot for Gael.
Orchid and the Wasp will be published on July 10th by Hogarth. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!
Sidenote: the cover is absolutely gorgeous.