A Review of ORCHID & THE WASP by Caoilinn Hughes


Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

ORCHID & THE WASP, Caoilinn Hughes’ debut contemporary fiction, follows the life of Gael Foess from her childhood up through her early twenties as she bounces back and forth between Ireland, England, and the United States. Gael’s father is an investment banker, her mother is an orchestra conductor, and her younger brother has himself convinced that he is epileptic. Her childhood might not be considered normal, but it is normal to her until her father abandons his family. Gael, who is independent and self-sufficient, does whatever she has to do to take care of herself and her mother and brother – even if she has to hurt the people that she loves in order to save them.

Gael Foess is a formidable protagonist. She is head strong, determined, and flawed. She is also cunning, conniving, and a bit of a con artist. Gael isn’t always the most likable character, but her desire to succeed and help her family is relatable. The problem is that Gael is trying to save her mother and brother despite the fact that they don’t necessarily need saving. Gael wants more for them, and she can’t seem to accept that they already have what they want. Gael makes many mistakes, and, even though she learns from her mistakes, she continues to make some of the same mistakes out of a deep-seated belief that she is doing the right thing. ORCHID & THE WASP tackles sexuality and family dynamics, as well as politics and the economy. While the novel is character driven, Hughes also brings to life the multiple settings with beautifully written prose. ORCHID & THE WASP is a fascinating read.