Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Final book a success as illness forces talented author to bow out

Reviewers are supposed to be neutral, but there are times before opening a book we fervently wish this wasn't so.

None more so than in the case of Anita Notaro's sixth and, tragically, final book A Moment Like This.

The former RTE producer, has been diagnosed with a form of dementia.

So you can understand why I might be tempted to say A Moment Like This is a thoroughly engaging chick-lit read, even if it isn't.

Thankfully, there is no dilemma here, and nor is there any sign of dementia in Notaro's writing.

Heroine Antonia Trent is undoubtedly childlike, but believably so.

She spent her first seven years in an orphanage after all, under the watchful but benevolent eye of Sister Monica. She was then adopted by doting, protective parents Anna and David and moved to quiet Glenvara in Co Wicklow, where she had her own perfect pink bedroom and garden swing.

After her widowed mother suffered a stroke, never-been-kissed Antonia has become her contented carer, pillar of the parish choir and all-round devoted daughter.

In fact, it is others - including failing Anna - who try to whet the 25-year-old's appetite for more of life's spice.

Especially as she has an astonishing talent - Antonia can sing.

But she isn't one bit interested until the chaotic aftermath of her mother's death.

A mystery friend (shrewd choir mistress Eithne) enters Antonia for television show That's Talent!, and she decides to go for it. Naive though she is, Antonia is resourceful enough to figure out what she needs for this all-consuming new strand of her life, and who can provide it.

But with each tense heat, and each leap up the ladder of public approval, Antonia steps out of her skin towards 'Toni', her showbiz persona.

After That's Talent! comes an even more unreal spell in London, where Toni must rethink her priorities and decide between two very different career paths.

A Moment Like This is a book to curl up with wearing a tracksuit and fluffy socks and be grateful for writers who can measure pace and dialogue with plot, who know you've had a hard day and want happy-ever-afters with not too many uncomfortable detours.

Sure, Antonia is at times irritatingly self-deprecating and nervy, but her Cinderella tale is also a heart-warming example of 'feel the fear and do it anyway'.

Anita Notaro has also stitched in a thoughtful romance.

In fact, compassionate yet edgy hospital doctor Niall O'Rourke is the quiet star of the book.

A Moment Like This is about grabbing your time when fate bestows a rare smile. Notaro's other fundamental point is it's no harm to present a certain persona to allow you to achieve certain things. If you do this with integrity, it needn't change who you are.

Antonia's exploits also demonstrate that if decent people lose their way, there is usually a route back. Sadly, for this talented author, there is not.

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