What they say: “Conor Fahy, owner of a struggling bookshop, is finding it hard to cope in the aftermath of his partner Leni’s tragic death. His friend Ella Wilde tries to be supportive but is herself in a fragile mental state. Then eight-year-old Jack White walks into Conor’s bookshop and settles down on the floor to read.”
The review!: Firstly I have to comment on the cover- this book was so beautiful, and had me. The moon, the stars, the glowing lantern, that perfectly placed bright shiny star, glowing in the corner? Gorgeous. So I did what seems to be turning into the norm for me, and purchased without a blurb. Now this practice has bitten me since, but not here. I will admit I read the blurb before I started the book, and was satisfied with my choice.
Starting off we meet Ella, the presenter of a show that exposes politicians and public figures. The book smoothly places you in Ella’s body and sleep walks you through her daily grind, with the trials of parenting three young children leaving you feeling a little ragged yourself. The tension was done amazingly, I felt it all. From the start you are always waiting, not just nervous, but worried-for her, for her children. Where’s she going? What’s she doing now? It was told so well that I felt the dread in the pit of my stomach, afraid of what her next move would be. And when she got there-the explosive moments, the first time we realized what Ella was up to? Wow. Did not see that coming!
The big thing about Ella was that she was human. Where we saw Ella’s flaws, we also saw how she was struggling to get her old self back. You got the feeling that her inner turmoil was so new, which made it that little bit more unbearable. As can be the case with many issues, however, there were unfortunately times where the sympathy waned slightly and I had the awful ‘why can’t she just snap out of it?’ thought, which made me feel quite guilty (and yes, I am aware that this is just a book and not real life!). The unfortunate thing was that the places where sympathies dropped were compounded, just a little, in Ella’s big realization. I felt she was just a bit too quick to hold it up as a justification for her actions, however, with the illness that’s in it, maybe it does justify them fully-I would say more that it justifies them to an extent, but I suppose that would be something that would attract different opinions.
And so we come to Ella’s rock. Not her husband by any means, who was a great dad but possibly the most unsupportive partner I’ve ever read. In my notes I merely wrote ‘Do not like Dan.’ That was the essence AND the totality of it. I really could not warm to him. Fair enough his life was turned upside down, but he really had no interest in listening, was very self obsessed (again I had an awful thought that this was why they were together, both had qualities very close to being self absorbed) and his sympathy, when it came, was too little too late.
No, Ella’s rock was her friend Conor, who showed so much compassion for her at a time when he was more justified than most to tell her to get it together. He, like Ella, was human, starting out grumpy and quiet and progressed from there with the telling of his story and the beautiful flashbacks of life with the lovely Leni. I have to say, I think Conor is my top male character to date (I am well aware in my last review I found my favourite female character, guess I’m just lucky at the moment!) Conor’s story tugged at the heartstrings (to lift an overused, clichéd phrase-fits well for these purposes!) In the same way the author brilliantly put you into Ella’s weary bones, Caroline Finnerty seamlessly transferred us into Conor’s worried shell, as he balanced a business struggling financially with the trials of living in a bad neighbourhood. Again- the tension, the nerves. I was there. Put this with the vivid descriptions of the shop, and indeed each of the locations that transpired before your very eyes, with the scenes set flawlessly/seamlessly, and you had a serious page turner to see what happened to Conor. Amazingly done.
Of course much of Conor’s story revolved around Jack … Jack, the star of the show, a young lad whose amazingly strong and brave mother was bringing him up with true values against all odds. I amn’t a fan of spoilers myself so can’t say much, however I will admit to shedding a few tears here … all I can say is ‘read the book!’
The only issues with this book were minimal and to be honest, didn’t effect me that much. Firstly there was the grammatical tense used, the simple present (I stand corrected if I’m wrong)- so ‘He goes, he stops’, unusually done, and very likely a pull for some people, I just wasn’t used to it even though it did the job.
The chapters ended abruptly for me, it was like each one was missing a line that would tidy it all up and pull it neatly together. Again, a small thing that I’m sure no one else would notice (sorry, readers if I’ve dragged your attention to such a pernickety issue!)
The other thing, maybe a bit more of a problem, was when I found out that Rachel was actually a main character as opposed to a minor one, and in general the story of Rachel and Marcus. I couldn’t warm to either, and definitely couldn’t warm to them as a couple, maybe I was too entangled with Conor and Ella and Jack, who were so strong? I will say that this in no way took away from the book, which shows what a great book it was, it was just that when Rachel was with Marcus, I was hoping she’d suddenly leave to do her job, which I found very interesting!
As for the book in its entirety? I cannot gush enough about it. From the start, I had some ideas both good and bad as to where each of the story-lines and the characters were going and wanted to eat up the book to see if they were correct. I looked forward to sitting down each day so I could get to this. I do think it is more of a paperback book than a Kindle one-there’s so many books out there that suit e-books, but this is one of the special ones that should be read, accompanied by the turning of crisp paper as opposed to the pushing of a button. The cover only seals this. Great characters, great storyline, good pacing, tension, a number of dramatic events, flashbacks that were done at EXACTLY the right time … I honestly was so impressed!
If there was any author that I wished I could write like in terms of descriptions, Ms. Finnerty would be it. In general the feeling was warm and wholesome and yet fresh-the type of story you would read sitting in the park on a Spring day, only getting up when you finished or when you found the park to be closing. A beautiful, captivating read that will definitely send me to Ms. Finnerty’s back catalogue. Highly recommend.
4.5 out of 5