On a bitterly cold winter’s afternoon, Michael and Caitlin, two middle-aged lovers, escape their unhappy marriages to keep an illicit date. Once a month for the past quarter of a century, Coney Island has been their haven, the place in which they have abandoned themselves to their love. On this winter day, they will discover that their lives are on the brink of change.
At his best, O’Callaghan creates characters who live with the reader ... examines the scaffolding of middle age: duty, the fading of passion, the erosion of choices, looming mortality...If this all sounds very sad, that’s because it is. The novel is a meditation on an often disappointing time and O’Callaghan doesn’t shy away from his subject ... In the closing pages, O’Callaghan’s prose reaches a pitch of emotional intensity that ensures these characters will linger with you long after the book is closed.
It’s that rare thing, a tender straight-ahead love story which convinces thoroughly while steering clear of the fashionably dysfunctional and transgressive relationships that dominate so much contemporary fiction ... Michael’s desperate search for love is plausibly presented, but Caitlin’s story is less convincing and skirts the border of cliché a little too closely ... O’Callaghan’s significant achievement in this fine novel is to retain our sympathy for the two lovers. Unlike in other novels on the theme of adultery, neither the writer nor his readers are tempted to judge the star-crossed lovers too harshly ... Good books remind us of other good books and in its treatment of adultery this one calls to mind thematic ancestors such as Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina and The Scarlet Letter. It also reminded me of the Alan Alda romcom Same Time, Next Year and, in its ending on the train, of the classic Brief Encounter. All that’s missing is the Rachmaninov.
... melancholic, lushly poetic ... The skeptical might wonder just how the two have managed to deceive their shadowy spouses for so many years, as well as how they have maintained such a white-hot passion through the decades, but few will be able to resist O’Callaghan’s romantic spirit. Driven by language rather than plot, the novel strikes a mood as elegaic as it is sensual.