Review: The Secret Life of Ashley Brown by George Fitzgerald

Photo of George Fitzgerald courtesy of Elizabeth Doran

The novel The Secret Life of Ashley Brown by George Fitzgerald is a challenging and compelling read.

Dealing with drugs, class and love in a complex and at times controversial manner.
Ashley Brown, the title character, reads many love stories and as such has a romanticized view of life and love. She is on a mission to find a man, despite being hardworking and successful, this is her dream. Unfortunately, such dreams can land heavily and having a good start and an idealistic nature is never really enough.
The novel The Secret Life Of Ashley Brown is in a sense a coming of age book, despite the character being significantly older than one would expect. Ashley relates to us the story of her twenties and how she was made in those years.

Women and the role of women play a significant role within the book. Her mother is a dominant maternal figure and a strong household presence, whom Ashley fears, whereas her father is the put-upon husband who provides. Ashley moves into the world of publishing and a modern life to escape her family’s conservatism and her mother’s dominance.

Another significant theme of the novel is class and how it consciously and unconsciously affects us, both in how we see ourselves and how we treat others. Ashley’s boyfriend Dean is from a lower class and in the novel she encounters many characters that society looks down on, including criminals, dealers and prostitutes. This is held in conscious contrast to the upper class publishing world in which she works and which she comes from.

George Fitzgerald, author of Ashley Brown, explained some of the inspiration for the novel. He admitted it was, “Difficult to write from the female perspective as a man.” He explained that a method that allowed him to do so was to use the flowery language of her internal world in order to understand her perspective.
Perhaps, the most striking aspect of the book is its treatment of drug abuse. Specifically how easy it is to go from having a “bit of fun” as Ashley’s publishing colleague Trevor says, to full blown addiction and the dire consequences that follow.

Fitzgerald stated that he had been involved in drug rehabilitation outreach with young users and he was passionate about conveying how very easy it was to fall back into that cycle regardless of background. “People always think, ‘it will never be me.’” However, for Fitzgerald it is never as simple as that, nor confined to a certain class or type of person.
The novel employs the concept of a higher power though it is not ostensibly preachy. Fitzgerald made clear it was something in which he believed but he did not want the book to focus on. Rather he wanted to be honest about what people experience and what they need to invoke when they are going through drug addiction.

The Secret Life of Ashley Brown by George Fitzgerald is a highly enjoyable read. It is of particular note in how it deals with women and the feminine as well as drug addiction and class. Though quite challenging in terms of the complex and sometimes controversial subject matter, it is a striking read, written with great passion and a powerful message.
The Secret LIfe of Ashley Brown by George Fitzgerald €10.00.

By Kevin Mac Sharry