Peter Sheridan's 'Forty-Seven Roses' is a deeply personal tale of family life in Dublin over the past six decades. A tenderly constructed memoir, it takes as its launch pad the death of Sheridan's father, and continues with the author's subsequent investigation into the crevices of his parents' marriage.
Sheridan's parents married in 1948. Prior to that, his father (also Peter) met a young English woman named Doris. Instant friendship blossomed into romantic feelings, yet the omens for the success of this union were bad from the outset: he was Irish, living in Dublin; she was English, living in Blackburn. Even worse, he was Catholic, she a Protestant. Divided by nationality, geography and religion, the pair nevertheless initiated an intimate correspondence, and but for a couple of cruel twists of fate, might feasibly have spent their lives together. As it turned out, they did, but not in the conventional sense. Peter Sr and Doris shared a life together, mainly on paper, in a correspondence which lasted up until the former's death in 1994 – forty seven years from when they first met.
This memoir is Peter Sheridan Jr's attempt to come to some sort of understanding of his parents' life together, and of the figure that was a constant threat to the very survival of that life, Doris. Sheridan's dips in and out of the past are constructed in a calm, unfussy manner, his simple, flowing prose vividly etching his memories of the past, and his acceptance of the present. His love for his parents, his siblings, and of his native Dublin, is clearly evident, while his desire to deconstruct Doris and the precise nature and depth of her relationship with his father, drives the memoir along at a healthy and agreeable pace.
Crucially, and to his credit, the author has managed to avoid passing judgment on any of the characters, a fine achievement when exposing so many hidden skeletons. A beautiful, touching and haunting novel, 'Forty-Seven Roses' will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.