It’s possible that Neil Jordan is still best known for his filmography as a director with award winning movies that included The Crying Game, but he is also a successful and decorated novelist. The Well of Saint Nobody is Jordan’s eighth novel and shows a writer well in control of his craft.
Tara has met famous pianist William Barrow three times before but he does not remember any of those encounters. Many years since their last meeting and living in a small Irish seaside town, Tara sees William again – he has retreated to the town due to a severe psoriasis that prevents him playing the piano. With some form of revenge on her mind, Tara takes up the position of housekeeper for him. Together the two discover an ancient well in the grounds of his house and, in a mischievous mood, Tara creates a mythology around it. But then the moss from the well actually heals William’s hands and the two become closer, before another, unexpected shift throws their relationship into another trajectory.
The Well of Saint Nobody is a beautifully observed novel that revolves around two, and later more, damaged characters. William carries with him a genius but also a loneliness that he can’t escape from. Tara on the other hand, always longed for a connection that never quite eventuated. Jordan plays their tentativeness and the secrets between them to great effect and then throws their relationship into an intriguing relief in the second half of the novel. At the same time, he lovingly evokes the landscape of the town and the lives of its other inhabitants.
The Well of Saint Nobody shows Jordan excelling at the craft, while his screenwriting experience shines through. The dialogue is sharp, the characters are memorable, their relationships are constantly challenged and shifting and the mysteries unravel and resolve organically.