Thanks to the author, I have a fantastic prize pack for one lucky reader. There is a signed copy of Still You, a beautiful book-lovers necklace, a swanky bookish bar of chocolate and an alzheimers.org.uk charity pin. Just enter via rafflecopter link below. Good Luck!
Georgina is starting a new phase of her life. Recently separated from her husband, she is learning to be a single mother and adjusting to being a single woman, instead of one half of a couple. One of her new experiences is becoming a carer to alzheimer's sufferer, Áine Quigley. The elderly lady has begun to deteriorate and her son has finally accepted that she needs help. Georgina and Áine take a while to find their rhythm, but pretty soon they bring out the best in each other. Áine's memories are fleeting and her carer helps her recall them, while all the while remaining cautious of their effects. The women help each other, without even realising it, and their friendship becomes more important than the disease. But are the memories safe to rekindle? Should the past be left forgotten? How much of Áine is still simmering behind the dementia? Georgina feels that Áine is still there, and is ready to support her, no matter what...
This dual-time story flicks from 1960's UK and Italy, back to the present day. Áine and her sister, Charlotte are like chalk and cheese, with one escaping the mundane, pre-planned life while the other stays at home to keep the cogs turning at home. When tragedy strikes, Áine's life takes on new meaning and she sees herself in a very different role. Family attitudes and expectations are forever hovering on the peripheral, yet she aches to be loved for herself.
Back in the present day, Georgina can see chinks of what she imagines is the real Áine, through the steady confusion of dementia. She knows that Áine is a woman of character and has her own distinctive story, but can also see how her past is being gradually eaten away by her disease. She knows that the job of carer has its limitations, and ignores recommended protocol and employment guidelines, instead focusing on befriending her client. Her own life is in limbo, so the two women have something different to offer each other.
Claire Allan has a way of bringing her characters to life, in her own distinctive way. She avoids over-sentimentality and instead focuses on the narrative. There is a warmness within her words and an appreciation of the individuality of her character's stories. Áine is a charming example. While some would see alzheimer's patients with a broad-stroke view of dismissive indifference, the author added depth to the narrative. While some writers portray carers as slaves to martyrdom, this novel shows these workers as regular, everyday men and women who just want to earn a living, while helping others who can't help themselves. Georgina and Áine are an unlikely duo, but they need each other equally. They bring out the best in each other, while dodging days of confusion and despair, yet through it all, hold their dignity as much as possible. The extra characters are there to help balance the overall tale and the split time-frame is great. I did find myself wanting to read more and more about Áine's past and flicked through the book with great gusto. There are elements for those who love a good romance, but for me, this was a story of personality. The one we are born with, carry forward through our teenage years, into our adult lives and which makes us who we are. This is the story of what happens when that personality starts to lose its grip, and becomes muddled up, out of control. Will people remember that you are still you?
An honest, heartfelt read, from one of Ireland's most charming and talented female fiction writers. Ideal for an evening by the fire, candle lit and the doors shut to the cold of winter...
Still You is published by Poolbeg Books and is available in trade paperback and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 22% discount, here.