The Little Red Chairs Book Review

The Little Red Chairs: Book Review by Dinh.

The Little Red Chairs


Dr. Vladimir Dragan, a stranger, masquerading as a healer and a sex therapist arrives in the small Irish town of Cloonoila and disrupts the quiet town.

Soon he meets the locals and charms them all. The town’s beauty Fidelma McBride falls under his spell.

Fidelma is married to Jack, who is significantly older than her. Fidelma desperately wants a child and connives with Vlad to get her deepest desire.

Then one day, on the bus going to Yeats grave, Dr. Vlad is arrested. It is revealed that he is a war criminal and a mass murderer. He is taken to the Tribunal in the Hague and indicted for war crimes.

Everyone is shocked and devastated by having the wool pulled over their eyes, especially Fidelma who is made an outcast for her sins.

Disowned by Jack and in disgrace, Fidelma leaves Ireland for London to start anew.



To be honest, I was not quite sure how I felt about The Little Red Chairs when I finished it. Let me preface by saying that this is not a feel good book but a thought provoking and philosophical book.

This is the first book of Edna O’Brien that I have read so I did not have any expectation going in. However, I have read that she is a great writer.

Let’s get started on the good things that I enjoyed about The Little Red Chairs.


Good Writing

I’ve read that Edna O’brien is a well known author and is respected for her writing skills so I expected her writing to be good. She didn’t disappoint!

What a great writer O’Brien is! She writes clearly with precision that transports your imagination to another world, whether the scene is the beautiful nature of Ireland, or the harrowing events of the war.



The plot was interesting because O’Brien’s Little Red Chairs is based on the life of Radovan Karadžić, a Bosnian Serb politician who was president of  Republika Sprska during the Bosnian War (192-1995).

Karadžić went into hiding and was a fugitive from 1996. It is when he went into hiding that  O’Brien took liberty and created a story of what happened to him from then.

I must say that this is a great idea, to pick up real life facts and make it into a novel.

The Little Red Chairs Book Review


Side Stories

One aspect in The Little Red Chairs that I enjoyed was the inclusion of the different people from different backgrounds and their stories.

Everyone had an interesting backstory. The stories together weave a web that tied the threads together with the main the story. Some stories were of immigrants and causalities of war, others not, but had a rough life.

I liked Mujo, the worker at the castle, his back story, and how he got to Ireland. His story weaves into the main plot and opens up the idea of how small the world is when he sees the bad man on table 17.



I liked that each part of the book had a meaning. Fildelma journeyed from Ireland to London and then to the Hague.  The first part of the book was the downfall, the second is finding the path, and the last part is about atonement.

There were some elements that I didn’t love in The Little Red Chairs.


Excessive Violence

What I didn’t like was the graphic violence parts of the book. O’Brien directness and rawness in expressing the horrible event that happened to Fidelma was too much for me. It was too vivid and left me feeling way upset to pick up the book for a while.

There were also atrocities that happened and were described in too much detail.

Only some parts were not depicted in minute details but were glossed over. It was a nice relief in the third part of the book, where at the Hague, Vlad’s crimes were listed and were not detailed.

I think the nature of the violence that was committed can be expressed without going into that much details. We get the message loud and clear and don’t need all the gory details. It can take away from the story rather than adding to it.



Although the story line is there, I found that the execution of it was fragmented. The narrative is not clear at times and it jumped back and forth so if you put it down you have to re-read parts again to find where you are.


My Final Thoughts

The Little Red Chairs is a well written book, with a good story line, and interesting side characters. It is also thought provoking.

Overall, it had too much violence in it for me to enjoy it fully. Rape, torture and other atrocities were detailed excessively and took away from the story.


You can get a copy here or listen to it for free with an Amazon Audible trial.

Have you read The Little Red Chairs? I’d love to hear what you thought of it! Please don’t forget to check out our book club discussion questions for The Little Red Chairs.

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26 thoughts on “The Little Red Chairs Book Review

    1. Hi James!
      Oh I am glad this has made you interested in The Little Red Chairs.
      Although I enjoyed reading it I did find that the violence parts were too much for me.

      Do let me know if you liked it after reading it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  1. It sounds like this was a really readable novel and that the writing was incredibly well done. I also like that it is based off of a true story and will have some real elements and facts in the story as well. It’s a shame that you found it too intense in some places as well, though, and that upset you a little. Hopefully your next read can be a little lighter and more to your personal tastes.

    1. Hi Olivia!
      I did enjoy reading The Little Red Chairs but it was too graphic for me to wholly enjoy it.
      I like the fact that I did learn something and it made me research the Bosnian war after I read the book. War criminals open up lots of questions about the nature of people- whether people are altruistic or not.

      My next read will definitely be much lighter!

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. It’s hard for me to enjoy literary works that have such violence, too. And as you’ve mentioned, her prose is highly praised which makes her probably quite adept at depicting these scenes vividly and viscerally. I think it’s still worth exploring now that I’ve been forewarned. That’s for the heads-up. Great review!

    1. Hi Lonna.
      We joked about ‘mimetic precision’ but after reading O’Brien’s The Little Red Chairs I can see why the NY Times said that. She is a brilliant writer. Her prose is ethereal and I can understand why she has been highly praised.

      I am definitely going to check out her other works even though I found it tough to read The Little Red Chairs. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this book when you read this.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

        1. Hi Lonna,
          It will be interesting to read other works of O’Brien. I am curious to see if she writes beautifully.
          I love finding authors that impress me. 🙂

  3. Thanks for another great review! I don’t know that this is one I’d read. Although I like historical fiction, this is not an area of particular interest to me. I’m more in the 1930’s to 1970’s decades and way back in history (like the 12th century). I see where you’re coming from with the violence – sometimes when I read things like that, they stay with me and I don’t want to pick the book back up. I think I’ll pass on this one, but I look forward to your next review!

    1. Hi Teresa!
      The Little Red Chairs is not for everyone. The violence was a big problem for me. I don’t mind if the violence portrayed in books but this was just a too much. The themes are upsetting and the message can be delivered without all the details.

      I love historical fiction too! I’ll let you know if I come across anything way back in history that I would recommend you. I love to read everything so it may be some time. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  4. Sometimes I like a book that is thought provoking, same goes for movies. Your review was excellent, makes me want to read it myself. Although like the other person mentioned on here I wish the violence wasn’t so explicit. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Owain!
      I like thought provoking books too and this book definitely made me think.

      It was educational too. I didn’t know much about the Bosnian War and the siege on Sarajevo and I ended up looking up the history and the main events during that time.

      O’Brien chose a well in deciding to base the book off the Bosnian Butcher. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  5. Dinh, thank you for another award winning review. I have already recommended this book review to a colleague. It sounds like good reading and he has the stomach for the violence and the torture. It would be interesting to see other work from O’brien. All the best Dinh. Nice job.

    1. Hi Josephine!
      I am glad you know someone who would like this book. Do let me know if they enjoy it. 🙂

      I am curious to read other works by Edna O’Brien. I think she writes beautifully! I will probably read The Country Girls Trilogy at some point. I haven’t looked at it yet but think I will probably enjoy them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. As always Dinh, another great book review.
    I agree with you, I dislike it when authors go too in depth with violence, especially of the dark nature that you listed. It is one thing to write a war book and to go through the mind and feeling of the soldier as he fights the battle, but it is a different thing entirely to describe acts of rape in detail. I think the author was probably just trying to evoke emotion (typically a good thing), but the negative emotion of those crimes is so distasteful that it impacts the enjoyment of the book.
    In your opinion, how much violence is too much?
    Have a great day, Dinh 🙂

    1. Hi Sam!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      The Little Red Chairs contains concepts of war crimes (genocide, ethnic cleansing, massacres, rape, tortures etc) so the topic alone can be upsetting. Added to this O’Brien fuels this with descriptive details which farther fans the flames. I don’t mind her expressing and getting her message across with this topic but she didn’t need to detail like she did. She already evoked negative emotions and it was enough without the details.
      How much is too much violence? I think it’s possible to convey what you’re trying to say without too much details. Some people can stomach it, and others like me, can’t. If it’s applicable to the story and does not take away from the story then I think it’s okay. I’ve read other books that have violence in it but it was done in a way that didn’t put me off reading the book.

      Thanks for stopping by at Arlene’s Book Club!

      1. Thanks for responding Dinh!
        A bit odd, I thought I replied to this a while ago. I think I accidentally exited the page and never hit submit!
        I think I agree with that assessment. I always wonder (although I’m sure its not true in most cases) if the authors who write such graphic details are bothered by something themselves. It could just be an attempt to evoke deep emotion, but often it just seems more personal and close to the very soul of the person writing it.

        1. Hi Sam!
          Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

          I do agree with you that some authors feel an emotional need to write something that is close to their hearts. I am not sure about the reason why O’Brien wrote about the Butcher of Bosnia but it does make a good story.

          Thanks for stopping by!

  7. It is refreshing to see a good, honest review of the book. You covered the story well enough and offered excellent insight into the authorship. Thank you for your thoroughness and a very valuable review.

    1. Hi Paul!
      Thanks for the compliments.
      I am always honest in my opinion of books and will express it. Ms. O’Brien is a well respected author and she does write beautifully but I found that The Little Red Chairs evoked too many negative feelings and the brutality of the violence was too much. It was otherwise a good book but I didn’t enjoy it fully.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Your review is well written and shows clearly what the book is about. I too would prefer that the minute detail in the violence be not so explicit. a useful review

    1. Hi Gerard!
      The excess violence in the book was way over the top for me. If O’Brien had toned it down then I think I may have enjoyed it more.
      I do love the way she writes though. She’s an excellent writer!

      I am glad you found my review useful.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Hi Dinh,

    Your post has left me wanting more! I guess that is what a well written book review will do. Like you, I probably won’t enjoy the parts about rape and torture if it’s too graphic, but I’m dying to know more about Fidelma. So I’ll just have to buy the book. Thanks for a great review 🙂

    1. Hi Gaylene!
      The Little Red Chairs is beautifully written so you’ll probably enjoy that aspect of the book. There a many good points to the book but I found the graphic violence too much and had to give it less than a stellar review.
      Fidelma’s journey is interesting and I think you’ll be surprise with what happens to her.

      Do let me know if you enjoy the book!

  10. Thanks for this detailed review. It is sometimes difficult to judge a book by it’s cover and to really find out if it is worth reading. You have gone into some detail here and I appreciate the honesty of the review.

    1. Hi Calen!
      Thank you for your comments.
      I love the cover of The Little Red Chairs with the red leaves on it.
      The cover was simple and eye catching and that’s what made me pick it up to look at in the first place.
      I only gave this book 3.5 stars out of 5 stars I would say that just to be aware of the graphic violence in it. I couldn’t stomach it. It put me off so much that I did find it unbearable and let it for a while.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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