Posts Tagged ‘Irish’

Black Lake – Johanna Lane

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Proofs on April 14th, 2014 by admin – 4 Comments

Black Lake: A NovelDulough is the mysterious house at the heart of this debut novel from Johanna Lane.  The house is fictional but the setting reminds me of one of my favourite locations in Donegal, Dunlewey Lough at the foot of Mt Errigal overlooking the Poisoned Glen.  In Black Lake this already wild landscape is battered by the winds coming off the Atlantic.  There is a savage aspect to the environment, a primitive, ancient ambience dating back to the Ice Age.

The Campbells are relative newcomers, the first of their tribe arriving in the early 1850s.  Scottish landowner, Philip Campbell who built the house/castle, Dulough, in 1854, cruelly evicting any tenant families who stood in his way.  Now, the roles are reversed as John Campbell, the current owner, can’t afford the upkeep of the house and enters into a contract with the Irish government whereby the house is shown to visitors as  a tourist attraction and he and his family relocate to a cottage in the grounds.

There is  a simmering resentment between the Campbells (landed gentry) and the locals (peasants…not really!).  John’s young son, Philip, feels particularly affected by the downsizing and is loathe to abide by the new rules and regulations.  The mother, Dublin born Marianne, seems out of place in this desolate setting no matter what size of house she’s in.  The daughter Kate tends to go with the flow and tries to keep the peace.  You just know that something bad is lurking round the corner.

This is a solid debut from a talented writer.  It’s a gentle, slow-moving story dominated by the austere, sombre landscape.  You wonder how anyone can thrive in such harsh surroundings at the mercy of the elements…and the recession.  I found echoes of William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault in this ethereal tale of displaced gentry.

Looking forward to seeing how Johanna Lane’s writing evolves in the future.

My thanks to Little Brown and Company for providing a review copy.

Black Lake is published by Little Brown and Company on 20th May 2014.

Dunlewey Church

Dunlewey Lough

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Ghost Moth – Michele Forbes

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, N Ireland, Proofs on August 3rd, 2013 by admin – 1 Comment


Ghost Moth

Publisher – W&N


Ghost Moth

Publisher – Bellevue Literary Press












Amazon Vine

My Rating
4 stars – one to watch


Ghost Moth is the debut novel of Michele Forbes, an Irish actress who has already written several critically acclaimed short stories.

Overall, I  found this a very promising debut novel with flashes of brilliance and a poetic heart at its core.  It’s a deeply moving examination of the minutiae of everyday life parts of which echo the author’s own life experiences.  There are two narrative strands,  both set  in Belfast ; the first  in 1949 where a young woman, Katherine Fallon, finds her pleasant relationship with the sure and steady George Bedford is shaken when she meets the charismatic tailor, Thomas McKinley. In the 1969 story we know that she is married to George and has four children but is it a marriage of convenience?

I loved the 1969 story, with the unsettled nature of the Bedfords’ relationship mirroring the uncertainty of a city on the brink of civil war. George, in his role as a part-time fire fighter, sees the burgeoning violence first-hand.  Elsa, Katherine’s youngest daughter, faces increasing hostility from other local children as the Bedfordshire are Catholics in a predominantly Protestant neighbourhood. Forbes excels at portraying the ebb and flow of family life : a day trip to the seaside, a back garden fair to raise funds for the “black babies”, how to find your role within the family.  In the midst of  all this change Katherine seems stuck in the past, unable to move forward.

The 1949 Katherine is a totally different character, embarking on an affair despite being happily settled with George after a two year relationship. You know it will all end badly but it is difficult to feel sympathy for Katherine and nigh impossible to work out what motivates her to make these life choices besides  just drifting into them.

The Bedfords seem like an ordinary family but within their “ordinariness” you will find extraordinary ripples making you think of the nature of love – between mother and child, between husband and wife, between siblings.  Does love have to be showy and passionate to survive the passing years?  Forbes makes you see under the surface, to what really matters.

I really enjoyed this condidently written debut novel and found some sections extremely moving especially towards the end of the story.   Some parts, especially in the early stages,  seemed overwritten and this had a jarring effect on the flow of the novel but fortunately this was the exception rather than the rule.  I am looking forward to reading more from this very talented author.

PS Which cover do you prefer?  Am I alone in having an extreme dislike of the one on the right??


Michelle Forbes

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Beneath an Irish Sky – Isabella Connor

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Proofs on June 7th, 2013 by admin – 3 Comments

Beneath an Irish Sky

Publisher: Choc Lit Limited

Publication Date: 07-Aug-2013


Source –

My Rating – 5 stars


This is my first taste of Choc Lit and I will certainly be back for more.  Isabella Connor is the pen name for Liv Thomas and Val Oltenau.  I’m not a big fan of collaborations and I don’t usually like contemporary romantic fiction but this novel stood out for me with its intelligence and wit along with a certain Irish sparkle.

Young Irish Traveller, Luke Kiernan is thrust into an unknown world following a tragic accident.  Plucked from the tranquillity of the Irish countryside he has to forge a new life amongst folk who don’t approve of his Traveller background.  With the threat of violence from his Irish uncles, the future doesn’t look bright for Luke.

This is an extremely readable, touching story which will appeal to fans of romantic fiction with a bit of a kick.   The characters are extremely well drawn, from the mysterious and sometimes brutal world of Irish Travellers to the supposedly more sophisticated, urbane setting of Middle England.  An ideal holiday read and also a rewarding book group read as it will encourage discussion about society’s attitudes towards and misunderstandings about minority groups.

You can discover more of Choc Lit’s enticing titles here.


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The Mystery of Mercy Close – Marian Keyes

Posted in Contemporary Fiction on October 24th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

The Mystery of Mercy Close (Walsh Family #5)

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph (13 Sep 2012)
  • My Rating – 4 stars – really liked this one
  • Source - Amazon Vine

Firstly I am not Keyesaphile, Marianmaniac or whatever the No 1 fans/experts of Marian Keyes are called these days but I have read and enjoyed a few of her previous novels. Also I have followed Marian’s very candid online thoughts on her crippling depression and I think she has done so much to help destigmatize an illness which, in its many different forms, is extremely debilitating.

I followed a fellow reader’s advice and downloaded Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family to refresh my memory of this madcap bunch and inadvertently irritate the life out of my family by bursting into laughter at unexpected and often inappropriate moments…do not bring your Kindle to mass…it was before things started, in case you’re wondering… Anyway, I felt more confident about Mercy Close now that I remembered who was who and got into the Walsh way…but don’t expect a bundle of laughs from the outset.

Helen Walsh is a complex character (like any female)and whilst she might come out with the odd one-liner and try to put a brave face on things because after all there is no thing such as depression according to the word of Mammy Walsh, she is a cauldron of emotions which threaten to engulf her at any moment. Ireland is in a state of chassis and the Celtic Tiger is more Tabby cat-like these days. Helen is feeling the effects of the recession and has to reluctantly return to the bosom of her family when she loses her flat, her livelihood and her self-esteem is at an all time low. You probably won’t like her very much but then chronic depression doesn’t exactly endear others to you!

I really enjoyed this manic tale, filled with equal amounts of joy and sadness just like “normal” life with its ups and downs. Yes, the “mystery” is quite simplistic but scratch beneath the surface and there are complex emotions at play. Marian Keyes is a very talented and insightful author who confidently treads that fine line between comedy and tragedy. Bravo!

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The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket – John Boyne

Posted in Children's Books on August 10th, 2012 by admin – 6 Comments

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket


Doubleday Children’s Books

Source – Amzon Vine

My Rating – 5 stars (for children and anyone who needs reminding of what it feels to be a child)

Barnaby Brocket is no ordinary boy as he defies the laws of gravity, floating off  if he isn’t physically restrained.   His parents cannot accept his differences and go to extreme lengths to keep him grounded, physically and mentally.  One day, Barnaby floats away and you hope he will experience better examples of humanity once freed from the suffocating normality of his earth-bound family.

Before I got the opportunity to “meet” Barnaby he was kidnapped by my two children, aged 8 and 12, and both were engaged by this extraordinary boy and equally enraged by the pompous, creativity-quashing attitudes of  his parents.  “He should have rung Childline” was the general viewpoint!  Having received such a positive reaction from the target audience I was delighted to find my own way into Barnaby’s world.   It’s whimsical, charming with a fantastical story which flows so smoothly you can’t help but be carried along.  There are touches of Dahl and Walliams with quirky characters and dark humour – this feels very much like a modern children’s classic.  Oliver Jeffers’ beautiful cover is the perfect complement to Boyne’s excellent storytelling – highly recommended for children age 8+.

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