'Girl on a Bicycle' tells the story of Julie Da Vraire, a passionate and intemperate young woman as she begins to make her way in the world. As Julie struggles with her identity, she finds her desire for freedom and sexual curiosity tempered by the stringencies of 1940s Ireland. Socially abandoned, Julie becomes castigated in her community and labelled a misfit.

Taking up her first paid employment, Julie’s emotional fragility leaves her vulnerable and easy prey to the sexual advances of an arrogant Bishop’s son, a sleazy aggressive stable-hand and a charming but manipulative woodsman.

As Julie’s few friends pass away, she becomes a prisoner to her erratic sensibilities.

Leland Bardwell’s first novel illuminates the isolation of a young woman on a path of self destruction.

It is hard not be impassioned by Julie, her fiery will, her indignation towards the upper classes and anti-authoritarian tendencies. There is a growing sense of hopelessness as she becomes increasingly destructive, without guidance or protection.

Bardwell’s prose is beautifully poetic and her narrative of the gardens in the summer gives a potent visual.

A beautiful and disconsolate read, a book to be relished.

Karen Moran