‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is the latest book by Northern Ireland author, Claire Allan.
In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a US marine based in Derry. Caught up in the whirlwind of romance, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray. But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise that they may have said their first and last goodbye. In 2010, Stella’s daughter Annabel is reeling from the loss of her father, agrees to accompany her mother back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. In Derry they both start to realise that sometimes you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted, in order to find what you all needed all along.
I have read a few of Claire’s book and I have enjoyed them all, as a local author I always feel I can relate to her, with her dialogue and local humour. Even though I have enjoyed her previous books, I have to admit that ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ was by far my favourite book by the author and for the first time, her book struck a chord in me that made me cry when the poignant tale came to an end.
‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is loosely based on a true story that Claire worked on in her job in local newspaper ‘The Derry Journal’. I think the fact that the story is fictional and there are probably a few stories like this that are unheard off make for particularly touching reading.
The story is set in two different eras, the first is Derry 1959 when young Stella Hegarty falls for marine Ray Cooper, they plan their lives together, setting off to Boston and finding their happy ever after but sadly this doesn’t happen for the young couple and fast forward to Florida 2010, Stella decides to return home after her husband’s Bob’s death with her only daughter Annabel.
Unknown to Annabel, she thinks that Stella wants to return to roots after her long absence but infact Stella is hiding a secret for the last fifty years and hopes returning home will finally bring her closure.
As well as set in two eras, the story is seen from both Stella and Annabel’s perspectives which does make the story even more intriguing. Annabel is unhappy with her life, particularly the relationship she is in and hopes that some time apart will help sort out her head. Even though I enjoyed Annabel, I thought she was an interesting character, a lost soul trying to find her place in the world, It was the scenes with Stella that I thought were particularly interesting, as she accounted her short time with her first love through recollections and letters to her sweetheart, all these scenes I thought made for bittersweet and tender reading and gave the tale a beautiful essence of innocence as we joined her become a young woman and experience love for the first time.
A tragically sad and wonderfully romantic story from start to finish, that will have you gripped throughout, ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is truly a strong triumph of a story that will have you smiling and laughing and is most definitely Claire Allan at her very finest.
You can buy The First Time I Said Goodbye from Amazonand is available to buy from most good bookshops.