Declan Lynch: The Rooms
This is the book that brought Lynch a certain amount of fame, at least in Ireland. It has been claimed as one of the best novels on alcoholism in recent years as well as being a fine love story. While it certainly is not a bad novel and is very readable, I do not fully share the enthusiasm of other reviewers. The story concerns Neal who was once a rock star and has now, for over seven years, been a recovering alcoholic but still in the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve step programme. Early in the book, he meets Jamaica. Jamaica, who is a white Irish woman who lived in Jamaica as a child, is a very rich fashion designer with a very large house in Wicklow, near Dublin. She is also a borderline alcoholic though not involved in any treatment. Neal and Jamaica start an affair and she moves him out of his flat and installs him in the lodge of her mansion. He is now busily engaged in developing a musical called Jack Rooney as well as spending time in the rooms, the alcoholic treatment centre.
The story revolves around the developing relationship of Neal and Jamaica and how he copes – or doesn’t always cope – with his alcohol demons. We also learn how he became an alcoholic and a rock star (the two, of course, going hand in hand) and learn a lot about what it means to be an alcoholic and how an alcoholic very much differs from a heavy drinker. Their relationship has its ups and downs, particularly when she takes up with a Brendan Behan type young playwright and the playwright even uses scenes from Neal and Jamaica’s relationship in one of his plays. The strength of the novel is the description of Neal’s alcoholism and his attempts to stay off the booze, particularly under the influence of the hard-drinking Jamaica. There is an underlying plot twist, involving a terrible deed Neal may or may not have committed while under the influence of drink, but it somehow does not seem as terrible as it should, whatever the truth is.
It’s certainly not a bad book and as a description of what alcoholism can really be like, it works quite well. But the love story, through well written, seems, well, like many other love stories and the excesses of the rock’n’roll life style are not exactly new.
First published in 2005 by Hot Press