The Rachel Incident

The Rachel Incident
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction
Tag: Ireland
Publisher: Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor
Publication Year: 2023
ISBN: 9780593535707

Rachel and James are friends and roommates, young and carefree in Cork. This is the story of the year they became entangled with a professor and his wife and things got complicated. Rachel is looking back on this year, reflecting on the messy business of navigating early-20s poverty, finding their identities, and pursuing art and relationships.

I’m always up for an Irish setting, and the wonderful Cork voices are particularly strong in this novel, even in print. This had some shades of Sally Rooney, but with a lighter, funnier tone. The characters are frustrating and often annoying, but they also ring true in their messiness (and it’s tempered by Rachel’s older and wiser voice from the future). I didn’t love this as much as many readers, but there’s a fresh tone here that I appreciated.

About the Book

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Publisher’s Description

Rachel is a student working at a bookstore when she meets James, and it’s love at first sight. Effervescent and insistently heterosexual, James soon invites Rachel to be his roommate and the two begin a friendship that changes the course of both their lives forever.  Together, they run riot through the streets of Cork city, trying to maintain a bohemian existence while the threat of the financial crash looms before them.

When Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr. Fred Byrne, James helps her devise a reading at their local bookstore, with the goal that she might seduce him afterwards. But Fred has other desires. So begins a series of secrets and compromises that intertwine the fates of James, Rachel, Fred, and Fred’s glamorous, well-connected, bourgeois wife. Aching with unrequited love, shot through with delicious, sparkling humor, The Rachel Incident is a triumph.

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