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No Small Shame

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  85 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Australia, 1914. The world is erupting in war. Jobs are scarce and immigrants unwelcome. For young Catholic Mary O’Donnell, this is not the new life she imagined.

When one foolish night of passion leads to an unexpected pregnancy and a loveless marriage, Mary’s reluctant husband Liam escapes to the trenches. With her overbearing mother attempting to control her every decisi
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 1st 2020 by Ventura Press
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

'Some things cannot be changed, must be endured, but more could be changed than you might think. If you dared.’

No Small Shame is a rich historical yarn that encompasses themes of morality, mistakes, duty, acceptance, choice, survival, loss and hope. Written by Australian short fiction specialist Christine Bell, No Small Shame represents Bell’s first foray in the adult historical fiction genre. A story told with passion, sensibility and intelligence, this one
Lauren Chater
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A gritty story of love and growth, beautifully told by debut novelist Chris Bell. The historical setting feels authentic and the characters act in believable ways. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.
✰  BJ's Book Blog ✰Janeane ✰
Australian historical fiction is a genre that I have been reading a lot more of the past year. I have read a lot more more WW2 stories than WW1, so this was a bit different for me.

I was drawn right into No Small Shame. From Scotland to Australia, this sweeping story of love and loss, head and heart had me diving for my book each lunch break, and making me want to have just a couple of minutes more before I headed back to my desk.

Mary and Liam's story is one that has been played out for centurie
Susan Francis
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I guess the first thing I want to say, is that I loved this book, and it has taken longer than it should have, for me to write a review. A brilliant book, without some of the praise that it deserves, is a sad thing. So finally, on this drizzly middle of the week day, I'm placing my greatest respect and admiration where they belong - straight into the hands of the debut author, Christine Bell.

Two aspects of her novel I want to flag straight up. One, is the incredible attention to detail and the a
Clare Rhoden
No Small Shame follows the story of Mary O'Donnell from her childhood home in a Scottish mining village, through emigration to Australia and life during the tragedy and disruption of the First World War and beyond. The shadows of poverty and class/religuious division reach far into the future.

The young Mary has her hopes fixed on childhood favourite Liam, but their eventual marriage occurs under circumstances that cast a dark shadow across both their lives. When Liam goes to war, Mary discovers
Kate Murdoch
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aww2020
No Small Shame tells the story of Mary O’Donnell, a Scottish immigrant to Australia around the time of the Great War. Mary has always been infatuated with Liam, a man she has known since childhood. As they grow older, Liam suffers the loss of his mother and becomes disaffected and irresponsible. Neither wish to follow the paths of their parents, nurturing dreams of a different life, free from the constraints of the working-class world they know where women’s only purpose is to raise children and ...more
Cel Jel
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The story of families and their lives and aspirations. Of consequences to choices and the curve balls that life can throw. Relations between mothers and daughters, and sisters with siblings.
The main character is a girl Mary whose close friend is Liam. They both dream of a better future but life conspires against them. Liam travels with his father to the antipodes to work in a new coal mine in a newly developing town. Mary has always felt close to Liam but has to wait till her family travels to
Stephen Johnson
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've been tardy in rating and providing a review for this fabulous book. It was like opening a time capsule on Australia in the early 20th century. Christine Bell takes us back to that era and the everyday struggle to scratch out an existence. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will find themselves sharing a fascinating journey with young immigrants in a new land. ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it
A story of choices and consequences set in Australia during the Great War.

A longer review appears on my blog, Kathryn’s Inbox.
Bree T
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Books like this make me really, really grateful that I’m living life as a woman in 2020, not 1920.

The story begins in 1913 Scotland and with young Mary, 14. Her Irish Catholic family are poor, her father works in the mines and her mother births babies, some of whom live and some of whom don’t. When the entire family as well as the family of her closest friend Liam move to Australia, it’s supposed to be a new beginning. However, little changes – Liam finds himself down in the mines, one in Wontha
Jane Curry
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A gripping read of female agency during WW1 years - Mary O'Donnell wants out of the poverty of her Scottish mining village and travels to Australia for a better life. However, a world war, babies, a loveless marriage and society's judgment all stand in her way. A beautifully researched, expertly written and captivating story of a female life. ...more
Cass Moriarty
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
No Small Shame (Impact Press 2020) by Christine Bell is a romantic historical fiction set at the time of the First World War and featuring themes of migration, the trauma of war and the strength of women.
The book begins with protagonist Mary O’Donnell growing up in the centre of a firmly Catholic family in the grim reality and harsh conditions of a Scottish pit village, and moves fairly quickly through the early period of her youth and her family’s immigration to Australia. I felt this initial
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Loved the character of Mary and I couldn’t put it down wanting to know how her story ends. A page turner and a must read for any fans of historical fiction.
Wendy Dunn
“I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.” ― Robert F. Kennedy.

‘No Small Shame’ is an important reminder of how far we have come in Australia since the beginning of last century – and how much we need to protect. Mary, a girl with dreams and immense character, is the daughter of a poor, working class family who migrates from Scotland to Australia in hope for a better life. Tragedy already darkens Mary’s young life when she leaves the country of her birth. It more than darkens
Karen Brooks
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This historical fiction by Christine Bell is a bleak and often harrowing read that nonetheless, tugs the heart strings and tells an unputdownable and beautiful story of familial bonds, religion, war, love, sacrifice, courage, and heartache, all against the backdrop of Scotland and Australia during and in pre and post-war times.
Young Catholic, Mary O’Donnell, follows her family to Australia in the hope of a better life, one that offers more than their little mining village in Scotland ever could
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it
The rushed ending makes up for the overly long middle.
I found this novel dragged for most of the story line, almost repetitive, in its misery.
J. Victoria
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Whenever I consume a book in a few days I always feel obliged to spend a moment or two pondering the years the author has spent writing the publication. It’s the same as polishing off a delicious meal in thirty minutes and thanking the cook who might have spent many hours preparing it.
Thank you, Christine Bell, for delving deeply into the structure of life and living one hundred years ago, first in Scotland and later in Wonthaggi. The story of Mary’s early life in a pit village in Scotland sets
Matt Davies
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I don’t tend to read much historical fiction, but No Small Shame gripped me from start to finish. The voice is so authentic, the setting so real and the story so compelling.

You’re with the main character, Mary, all the way, wanting her to rise above her circumstances while the obstacles pile up around her—religion, unrequited love and familial and societal pressure to be someone she doesn’t want to be.

It’s a love story at heart, but the wartime backdrop also propels the narrat
Danielle Burns
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This gem of a novel, No Small Shame by Christine Bell not only tells the story of Catholic Scottish immigrant, Mary O'Donnell and the challenges of her new life in Australia but also shines a rare spotlight on the domestic situation, especially that of women during the era of the Great War.

In the Scottish pit village of Bothwellaugh, teenager Mary and her best friend Liam make a pact for a better life for themselves. When the menfolk of both families take jobs in the brand new coal town of Wont
Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had been finding it hard to pick up a book and be able to switch off and delve in. After a few pages, the words would become blurry, my attention would drift and I just hadn’t been feeling the urge to get stuck into a good book.

Those feelings thankfully have changed as my mood has lifted and I’ve crawled partially out of the funk most of us are experiencing in these strange times. Some extremely good books which have arrived at my doorstep have been a huge help in getting me back on track. No
Dana Light (dlight_reads)
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It’s Australia, 1914, War has just broken out and everyone’s world has turned upside down. Young Mary O’Connell’s life isn’t what she imagines it to be, especially after one late beer filled evening with her childhood best friend. Poor Mary, her innocent childhood forever changed as she faces a world full of sin as an unwed mother. Mary flees to Melbourne to escape her overbearing mother and to give her child a fighting chance at a different life than her own growing up. What lies in Melbourne i ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Easy to read! A beautiful story of a young woman who endures migration and the harsh Australian terrain just before WW1. I found myself constantly wanting more for the main character and wishing for her life to go in a retain direction. Her spirit is strong
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. This book took me awhile to get into, but once I did I loved the story of Mary. This book is mainly set in Australia in WWI, while I love historical fiction I haven't actually read a lot set in Australia and I really appreciated the way Christine Bell described the setting. Both Melbourne and the small mining town had a certain grittiness to them and you could sense Australia was changing.
Mary was a great character, she was strong and courageous and a protagonist you could get behind
Denise Newton
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is Christine Bell’s debut novel for adults, though she has published many works of short fiction for both adults and children, and has also written a Young Adult manuscript. I hope she continues to write stories like this one, which brings history to life and also tells us important things about our own times.

No Small ShameChristine Bell
Read Me Another Story
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it

The story starts in 1910 with Mary growing up in Ireland and she is childhood friends with Liam. Both Liam and Mary’s families migrate to Australia and life begins to get complicated. After one mistake, it will change the trajectory of both of their lives forever.

I really enjoyed this book and understanding how the world was in the midst of the First World War. I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys historical stories.
Karen Hollands
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fans of historical fiction will love No Small Shame by Christine Bell. Distinctively Australian, I got swept up in the story of Mary O'Donnell and her family. The setting is authentic and the author brilliantly captures the voice of the characters. The story is well-researched and intelligently and passionately told. I cared for all the characters, even the deeply flawed ones. Loved reading an historical novel with a strong, female protagonist. ...more
Karyn Sepulveda
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was captivated by Mary's story. This book is a wonderful example of telescoping in on a seemingly ordinary life and examining all of the intricacies that make up that life; the pain and hardship along with the love and joy. This book made me reflect on how grateful I am to the women who went before us; especially for their bravery and endurance. ...more
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
A superbly researched, beautifully written story set in the early 1900s, mostly in Australia. Parts broke my heart, but I was thankful for an uplifting ending. Recommended reading for lovers of historical drama.
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lovely story with a great protagonist. Loved her voice which to me rang true with the era and her origins. Well done to Christine Bell for creating a wonderful book.
Ann Koenig
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mary’s story was heartbreaking as she negotiated life in Australia as a poor, uneducated woman living in a sad marriage and restricted by the Catholic mores of the time. Women had such a tough time
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