Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Book Review - "What She Never Told Me" by Kate McQuaile

I received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review...

Louise has returned to Ireland as he mother is dying.  Unanswered questions about her father are foremost in her mind, but her mother sheds no light.  A small discovery unearths a pathway to her past and she abandons her London life to delve further into the unknown.  Her marriage has disintegrated and her Irish past is calling her.  Recurring dreams unsettle her and she wonders just how real they actually are.  What has her mother neglected to tell her?  Does she really want to know? 

This debut from Irish author, Kate McQuaile, is neither 'thriller' nor 'female fiction'.  It has been referred to as 'Grip-Lit', in recent newspaper articles. I'm not a huge fan of this label as it implies that is only for female readers.  It is more a study of character and how one responds to secrets.  How many of us have discovered something that sheds a completely new light on our past and maybe even our future?  Can we presume that we have been given the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?  In the days before google and social media, it was not all that hard to keep a secret.  It is really only one generation back that we can spot inconsistent recollections of relatives, friends and neighbours.  In this novel the protagonist, Louise, has already been driven a hard blow by her failed marriage and now has to say goodbye to her mother.  Although she had a wonderful family life, her biological father was never mentioned and she is uncertain of her mother's honesty.  When she begins to renovate the Drogheda home she has inherited, she finds some cards which make no sense.  Here begins her search for answers.  Flying back and forth between London and the Co. Louth bungalow, she realises she needs to find her roots.  Both in her past and in her, now uncertain, future.

As I live in Co. Louth, with my small village only ten minutes from the historic town of Drogheda, I felt as if the book was written with me in mind.  There were strolls on Bettystown Beach, mentions of St. Oliver Plunkett's Head on display in St. Peter's church, descriptions of the north and south side of the River Boyne and of the hilly streets of the walled town.  Most Irish novels are based in Dublin, Cork, Galway or in the rural villages that are scattered all over our island.  It was an absolute pleasure to read one that is situated in an area within walking distance (well, a long walk).  However, this novel encompasses two main locations and two main narratives; London, Louth and the lives of Louise and her mother, Marjorie.  The story unfolds at a steady pace, until the last part where everything comes together in a sudden spurt.  The writing is delicate and descriptive and definitely holds the readers attention.  I did foresee the ending quite early on in the novel, but as I'm a voracious reader, I wouldn't be put off by this.  Kate McQuaile deserves a chance.  She is a talented writer of contemporary fiction who should appeal to readers of Louise Candlish and Dorothy Koomson.  There is more story than suspense, which shows her ability to use words rather than ideas.
This is a strong debut and I'm delighted to see Co. Louth in fiction.   Well done Quercus for discovering more Irish literary talent!

What She Never Told Me is published by Quercus and is available in TBP and ebook format.  You can order your copy with 15% discount and Free Worldwide Postage HERE.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

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