I received a copy of this book from the author, for review purposes. It had a lovely handwritten note inside, which I just love !
True love is the subject of many stories, whether in book form or in the movies. Sometimes the stories are standard boy meets girl, have a fight, make up and get back together, for ever and ever and sometimes they are a story of lost love, where they are destined to be together forever, but for one reason of another this never comes to pass. This story is just that little bit different and what makes it even more compelling is the fact that is is based on a true story......
2010 and Annabel is grieving from the loss of her Father. Her mother, Stella, decides to take a trip back to her hometown of Derry, Ireland and the two woman begin a journey which leads to more than a reunion of long lost relatives.
Stella has other reasons for returning to Ireland for the first time since she left for America all those years ago. In 1959 she was a young factory girl, madly in love with a US Marine based in Derry and her whole life was ahead of her. How, then, did she end up marrying a different American man, Annabel's Father, and why is it so important to return to Ireland now?
This is more than just a story of love. It is a tale of fate, family and circumstances. The characters are warm and enduring and the past intermingles with the present so smoothly that you don't even notice the change in period. Stella's family are wonderfully written and you can almost feel as if you are sitting in their home, having a cup of tea beside the fire. The bond between them is very real and anyone who has ever sat through a family reunion in Ireland will recognise a lot of the rituals that Claire Allan describes as well as the atmosphere at these events.
Stella's love, Ray, returns to The States when his troop is removed from Derry and she starts to imagine her new life in America as she waits for her visa approval to enable her to follow him over:
" A moment can change the course of your life forever. All the plans - dreams and hopes you thought you had can suddenly disappear. Life can take a new direction. Things change. Decisions are made - decisions that you think are the best for everyone at the time but that have consequences so far reaching you can't possibly understand what they will mean for you.
Stella Hegarty learned that on Feb 16 1960, when just as it seemed as if the paperwork would finally come through for her new life with Ray, her life turned on a hairpin and things would never be the same again. "
A lot of Irish authors have tried to recreate the Ireland of the past and have succeeded, but usually with lots of stereotypical Irish-isms which can really annoy us who were born and bred here. However, Claire Allen has not chosen this route, and for this, the reader should be grateful. She has concentrated on the story and the effect that love can have when it is real.
The novel had the added benefit of having been based on a true story, of which the author had written about in 2011 for The Derry Journal. She, very kindly ,sent me a copy of the article and I could see why she chose to recreate the story in a book.
Quite simply, this is one of the nicest, warmest and moving love story I have read in years and I found myself very emotional while reading it. It had some personal meaning to me, as it was a similar tale to a relative of mine, and I had to stop reading a few times in order to pull myself together. I didn't want it to end and the lump in my throat remains with me, even as I write this review.
Thank you Claire Allan for telling a wonderful story, with amazing characters and loving research. I know plenty of women of all ages will enjoy this novel and the feelings that arise from it.......
The First Time I Said Goodbye is published by Poolbeg and is widely available.
Claire Allan can be contacted via her website http://www.claireallan.com/ or https://twitter.com/ClaireAllan