True to its title, there are indeed several scenes of a graphic nature in this book, but they are so astutely observed and honestly described that they never jar or cause the reader to cringe. O’Donoghue’s prose is witty and original and she has a real gift for description. This is a gorgeous exploration of the messy and fragile nature of friendship and all the many forms of love, as well as of the primal need we all have to belong.
Scenes of a Graphic Nature is an absorbing and compelling mystery that takes a nuanced view of contemporary Ireland and its historical failings. Similar to some of the strengths in O’Donoghue’s début novel Promising Young Women, it captures the murky period between university life and adulthood well, and Charlie is a contemporary, complicated heroine who will ring true for millennial audiences.
Where O’Donoghue nails it is in her writing about women who make art, female collaboration, and identity. Here she is witty, tender and insightful, especially on the way oppression bleeds its way through the generations. “My great-grandfather’s family were very poor and very Catholic and spent the latter years of the nineteenth century either fleeing the country or dying of starvation,” she writes. “It’s one hundred years later and his closest living ancestor is living on the poverty line in a building where her post gets stolen.” O’Donoghue is a perceptive, clever writer, and there’s a hint of a more powerful novel inside this fun, plotty mystery.