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The Women Who Ran Away By Sheila O’Flanagan

The Women Who Ran Away ‘The Women Who Ran Away’ is the latest book by Sheila O’Flanagan and is currently number one in the book charts in Ireland.

Deira isn’t the kind of woman to steal a car. Or drive to France alone with no plan. But then, Deira didn’t expect to be single. Or to suddenly realise that the only way she can get the one thing she wants most is to start breaking every rule she lives by. Grace has been sent on a journey by her late husband, Ken. She doesn’t really want to be on it but she’s following his instructions, as always. She can only hope that the trip will help her to forgive him. And then – finally – she’ll be able to let him go. Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Grace and Deira find that it’s easier to share secrets with a stranger, especially in the shimmering sunny countryside of Spain and France. But they soon find that there’s no escaping the truth, whether you’re running away from it or racing towards it.

This book is currently number one in Ireland and having spent my Saturday reading it, I can understand why.

The story is seen through the perspective of 2 Irish women called Grace and Diera who are travelling around France and Spain on 2 separate adventures. But a chance encounter brings them together and they end up on an adventure.

After her husband died Ken died, he tasked Grace with a treasure hunt. Leaving her children behind, she packs up the car and is determined to solve all the clues. Diera has stolen her partner’s Audi and taken the holiday that was intended for them. After staying in the same hotel, the 2 women become firm friends and Diera ends helping Grace with the hunt.

I really enjoyed this story, the 2 women are really interesting and found their new friendship lovely to read. As they both accompanied each other on this momentous time in each other’s lives and were there to support each other.

The women are interesting characters both with complex situations. Grace is an interesting woman, having been married for 40 years and living in her husband’s shadow. Ken was a traditional man who preferred Grace to be at home and not working. I didn’t particularly like Ken, he used his intelligence to undermine Grace and was quite sexist in his viewpoint. Whilst Deira, is trying to deal with a breakup and has gone on the holiday to clear her head. For me, I felt such a sympathy for her, having invested so many years of her life only for it to thrown back in her face. I didn’t like how people treated her, particularly her older sister, who constantly frowned at Deira with her decisions and life.

Like Sheila’s previous books, this focuses on relationships, not only romantic but also friendships. It was lovely to join the women on the adventure as they get to know each and confide in each other. They helped build each other’s confidence and find strength the hard times. The story is thoroughly researched and especially during these times of a pandemic, the vivid descriptions of the scenery, the locations and the food was a welcome distraction.

Beautifully written, injected with warmth, Irish charm and humour, ‘The Women Who Ran Away’ is a smart and life affirming story about new friendships, adventures and there’s no age limit to starting over.

You can buy ‘The Women Who Ran Away’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Helen Cullen Lockdown Life Interview

Helen CullenHelen Cullen’s debut novel, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ was published in 2018. Before writing, Helen started her career with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) where she worked in radio broadcasting before moving to London in 2010. She subsequently worked for companies such as the BBC and The Times before her most recent role in Google where she worked before signing her publishing contract. Helen was also shortlisted as Best Newcomer at this year’s Irish Books Awards. Her latest book called ‘The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually’ is out now.

  1. Hi Helen, can you tell us about your latest book called ‘The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually’
    his novel was inspired in part by the Japanese art of kintsugi – the practise of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, silver, or platinum so that the breakage and repair remain visible to show the history of an object, rather than something to disguise; the pots become even more beautiful than before they were broken.

    The theme of personal truth is a very important one in the novel – and in particular, how personal truths may not always align with what can be considered universally accepted truths. Sometimes it is only with acceptance of that that we can find peace. And sometimes that truth or awareness needs to creep up on us slowly as it would be too blinding if confronted too quickly or head on. My working title as I was writing the book had been Kintsugi as mentioned above but I wanted the title to reference the truth that is at the heart of the novel. The Emily Dickinson line just came back to me one day as I was sitting on the London tube and it just clicked.

  2. How will you be celebrating your publication day?
    Originally we had planned to have a book launch at Daunt Books in London and Dubray Books in Dublin before Covid-19 came along so now instead we will be launching the book with some virtual events instead. I hope it does mean lots of folks can join us who might not have been able to otherwise so that is one silver lining.
  3. With the world being on lockdown, did it effect your reading or writing or were you able to work away?
    Like many people it has been a bit of a rollercoaster and I found myself oscillating between periods of compulsive reading and great productivity and times where I felt I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. Hopefully I will return to some sort of balance soon.
  4. Did you discover any new authors?
    My journalism work brought some wonderful books my way during this period. I absolutely loved Polly Samson’s ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’ that is set on the island of Hydra during the Leonard Cohen era and ‘Miss Austen’ by Gill Hornby that investigates the life of Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra. I am a huge Jane Austen fan and this is the first Austen adjacent novel that I’ve read that completely won my heart. Elaine Feeney is an amazing debut Irish writer who publishes her novel, ‘As You Were’, on the same date as me and it is a remarkable book – and Elaine is a remarkable woman too.
  5. The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

  6. How’s life in lockdown did you discover any new skills?
    No new skills per se but I did become quite fond of power-washing the patio.
  7. What’s next for you, any new projects in the pipeline?
    I am working away on my third novel which feels very different to me than the first two which is thrilling and terrifying and I’m also starting a PhD in October at UEA which fills me with the exact same feeling!

    Follow Helen Cullen on Twitter and follow her website

You can buy ‘The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually’ on Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Paper Bracelet By Rachael English

The Paper Bracelet ‘The Paper Bracelet’ is the latest book by Irish author Rachael English.

For almost fifty years, Katie has kept a box of secrets. It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland mother and baby home, and contains a notebook with details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets. Following the death of her husband, Katie makes a decision she has long kept at bay. She posts a message on an internet forum, knowing that the information she possesses could help reunite adopted people with their birth mothers. Soon, the replies are rolling in, and Katie encounters success, failure, heartache and joy as she finds herself in the role of part-detective, part-counsellor – chasing down leads, piecing together stories, and returning many of the bracelets to their original owners. But there is one bracelet in the box that holds the key to a story that may never be told.

‘The Paper Bracelet’ is the first book that I’ve read by Rachael English and I must admit that it was a truly charming story that tugged at the readers’ heartstrings.

The story is about a mother and baby home called Carrigbrack in Ireland during the 1960’s where young women who became pregnant were sent away to. These homes were by the Catholic church and the women were mistreated and babies were taken away, never to be seen again. The story is seen from the perspective of Katie, who was in a nurse in the Carrigbrack and decides she wants to help reunite mothers with their children, as she collected the paper bracelets that each baby was given with their date of birth and weight. The story is seen from her narrative with the help of niece Beth, as well as the perspectives of Gary, Brandon and Alish who have spent their lives looking for their real mothers. Another inclusion in the story is flashbacks to the Carrigbrack from the perspective of a young mother called Patricia who’s expecting a baby.

The sad thing about this story is that it is based on true events. Ireland had homes where women disappeared to have children and were exposed to harsh brutalities of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They were punished for becoming pregnant, even though some of their pregnancies may have come from sexual abuse within the family. It’s a shocking read in parts, especially with the cruelties of the nuns and how they treated the women, they lacked compassion and sympathy towards the situations. The different narratives give a lovely slant to the story as we join Alish, Brandon and Gary find their mothers and try to piece their lives together and find their place in life properly. I loved Katie, having lost her husband, she’s now committed to helping reunite families and it makes for tender reading as we join her on this journey.

A heartwarming story that is reminiscent of a Maeve Binchy story, ‘The Paper Bracelet’ is a beautifully written and emotional story about the tragic hardships of mother and baby homes. Written with tenderness and filled with warmth and Irish charm, this book is the perfect page turner.

You can buy ‘The Paper Bracelet’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Out Of Love By Hazel Hayes

Out Of Love‘Out Of Love’ is the debut book by Hazel Hayes.

As a young woman boxes up her ex-boyfriend’s belongings and prepares to see him one last time, she wonders where it all went wrong, and whether it was ever right to begin with. Burdened with a broken heart, she asks herself the age-old question . . . is love really worth it?

On Sunday morning, I curled up on my sofa and started this book and found it impossible to put down. A touching and honest reflection and observation on the breakdown of a relationship and how it all can go tragically wrong.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of the protagonist of the story, who’s never named at the exact moment that her ex boyfriend returns to their house to pick up his stuff. It’s whilst this happens that the story then deals with the aftermath of the relationship as well as as travelling back in time to key moments in the couple’s relationship.

For me, this book really struck a chord. It literally felt like Hazel has delved into my mind and written about my own relationships and insecurities. I connected with the character on such a level that I hasn’t happened to me for a long time with an author. The loved the protagonist in this story, she’s flawed, unsure but embraces all of it with wit and warmth that made for gripping reading. It was atmospheric from the first page and the vivid descriptions of nights out in Dublin literally leapt off the pages at me. I too, have experienced the cattle market that is Coppers and Hazel’s description of it described it perfectly, I only wish I had known about this third hand when I visited.

Beautifully written, the story is observant and reflective piece on the breakdown of a relationship, when the passion and love is replaced by tension and misery and the only option is to let go. ‘Out Of Love’ is a beautiful debut that is On Sunday morning, I curled up on my sofa and started this book and found it impossible to put down. A touching and honest reflection and observation on the breakdown of a relationship and how it all can go tragically wrong.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of the protagonist of the story, who’s never named at the exact moment that her ex boyfriend returns to their house to pick up his stuff. It’s whilst this happens that the story then deals with the aftermath of the relationship as well as as travelling back in time to key moments in the couple’s relationship.

For me, this book really struck a chord. It literally felt like Hazel has delved into my mind and written about my own relationships and insecurities. I connected with the character on such a level that I hasn’t happened to me for a long time with an author. The loved the protagonist in this story, she’s flawed, unsure but embraces all of it with wit and warmth that made for gripping reading. As the story delves into her past, we are confronted with her struggles with abuse and mental health and how she has become the strong woman that she is now. It was atmospheric from the first page and the vivid descriptions of nights out in Dublin literally leapt off the pages at me. I too, have experienced the cattle market that is Coppers and Hazel’s description of it described it perfectly, I only wish I had known about this third hand when I visited.

Beautifully written, the story is observant and reflective piece on the breakdown of a relationship, when the passion and love is replaced by tension and misery and the only option is to let go. ‘Out Of Love’ is a beautiful debut that is witty and warm tale that had me laugh at the Irish charm and cry at the brutal honesty.

You can buy ‘Out Of Love’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Cutting Place By Jane Casey

The Cutting Place”The Cutting Place’ is the ninth book by Jane Casey in the Maeve Kerrigan thriller series.

Everyone’s heard the rumours about elite gentlemen’s clubs, where the champagne flows freely, the parties are the height of decadence . . . and the secrets are darker than you could possibly imagine. DS Maeve Kerrigan finds herself in an unfamiliar world of wealth, luxury and ruthless behaviour when she investigates the murder of a young journalist, Paige Hargreaves. Paige was working on a story about the Chiron Club, a private society for the richest and most privileged men in London. Then she disappeared. It’s clear to Maeve that the members have many secrets. But Maeve is hiding secrets of her own – even from her partner DI Josh Derwent. Will she uncover the truth about Paige’s death? Or will time run out for Maeve first?

Although this is the ninth book in Jane Casey’s series, this was the first book that I read by the author and I must admit it was a great story and introduction to a new series.

The story starts with the discovery of a dismembered female body and DS Maeve Kerrigan is called in to investigate. As she looks into the background of the victim, she begins to ravel the possible motives behind the woman’s death as well as the discovery of an elusive club.

The story is primarily told through Maeve’s perspective but there is an inclusion of chapters seen from the narrative of someone who has just done something terrible and their identity is not revealed.

I really enjoy a good murder thriller and ‘The Cutting Place’ was just that. DS Maeve Kerrigan is a great character, a strong woman who works hard in a predominantly male environment but has earned her colleagues respect through her eye for detail. Her relationship with her colleague and flatmate Josh Derwent is a turbulent one that makes for interesting reading, combining the professionalism and personal aspects of their relationship with wit and drama. The premise for the book revolves around a secret society club and it makes for interesting reading as Maeve investigates it and the sordid tales surrounding it.

The story is a tense and dramatic one, with suspense leaping off each page, the dynamics between the characters, as well as suspicious characters makes for truly gripping reading, that really leaves the reader on the edge of their seat.

Although in the book, Jane provides some character background, I was really intrigued by the relationship between Maeve and Josh and will most definitely be looking into reading the previous books from the series.

‘The Cutting Place’ is a gruesome and dark tale about the dark underbelly of high society, a fantastically written and a thoroughly well researched police procedural, packed with humour and some tender moments helping the reader recover from the darker ones, a must read!

You can buy ‘The Cutting Place’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.