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It Was Only Ever You is the first book by Kate Kerrigan and I've been so excited about checking it out, especiall Originally posted on This Chick Reads
It Was Only Ever You is the first book by Kate Kerrigan and I've been so excited about checking it out, especially as it has won the RNA 2017 Historical Novel of the Year Award. Now that I've read it, I can say it definitely won't be my last one by this author. It Was Only Ever You is a charming tale of love, soul mates and music and I devoured it in a day.
The story is set in set in a small village, Foxford in Ireland and New York during the 1950s, the time when rock and roll was just starting to enter the clubs. There are four main characters, something I would usually find overwhelming, however Kate's beautiful writing style and portraying of her characters made the reading experience so much easier and enjoyable. Of course, there are many more characters in the book, for some there might even be too much to follow, however I had no problems with this. They were all so diverse and each of them added to the story. The main characters are Patrick, Rose, Ava and Sheila and in the book we get to see a bit of each perspective. The book opens in 1941 and we see Sheila living with her aunt and uncle in the States because of the war. She just found out her parents and brother have been killed by the Nazis and at 14 years old, she really does her best to digest this horrible information. Fast forward 17 years, Sheila is a strong independent woman in her 30s, who's trying to make it into a 'men's world' by becoming a music manager. As we follow her attempts at finding a new talent to work with and get into some of the clubs and dance rooms, we get to really feel her determination and strong will. Patrick and Rose live in a small Irish village, Foxford. Patrick has a beautiful voice and charming looks. He's in his mid 20s and can have any girl he wants. However, he's not arrogant, on the contrary, he's very down to earth when it comes to both his singing talent and looks. Rosa is just finishing school and is the daughter of a well known doctor. She's also Patrick's sister best friend and seems to have blossomed into a gorgeous young lady over night. Rosa and Patrick fall in love with each other however Rosa knows her family (pragmatical Dad and snobbish mum) would not approve of plain, artistic Patrick. After a series of events (which I won't reveal much about as I don't want to spoil the book for you), Patrick arrives in America, the land where all dreams come true. Some dreams do come true for him, alright, yet some are shattered to pieces.
Ava is the daughter of an influential Irish immigrant. She's well mannered however very self-conscious. She loves dancing and is a regular at one of the dance rooms. Her life is forever changed when she meets the young, dashing Irish singer, Patrick. Through love, pain and tears all of these four main characters learn about life and their biggest passion - music. It's their love and passion for music which intertwines their stories and which plays a huge role in the book.
What I loved the most is how through Kate's beautiful writing and descriptions I was transported in a completely different era, in the 1950s, seeing and feeling the glamour, the fashion, the music genre which was just emerging. I haven't read a book (at least not recently) where music plays such an important role and I absolutely love how Kate managed to transport me in this time of our history, a time when I wasn't even born. I could close my eyes and see the big dance rooms (or ball rooms), the musicians on stage, the glamorous couples dancing. As someone who loves the 1950s and 1960s this was truly a great enjoyment. It's obvious the author did her research well on the life in the States during this period of history and the music industry at the time.
However, this book is not just about music It's a romance book and there are some very complex relationships to follow. Even the blurb implies there's a love triangle, so do have this in mind when you pick up this book (as I know many readers don't like this). There's also insta love, and I have to say I was slightly bothered by this, but then again..it was 1950s...a completely different type of dating (courting) and some very different social/cultural conditions. While there were some scenes that melted my heart, there were some that left me a bit confused and puzzled. The characters felt a bit over the top in the second part of the book, it seemed like they were all overreacting or reacting rather different to what we now consider 'normal/usual'. There was loads of drama (sometimes unnecessary) and there were so many stuff happening I was really trying hard to keep track. While I absolutely adored the first half of the book, the second one felt a bit confusing which is the only reason why I'm not giving this book a higher rating.
Overall, this was an enjoyable romantic read and I'll definitely be reading more by this author. I'm fascinated with Irish fiction and authors and I'm glad I've discovered another great Irish author. From Mayo County, Ireland to New York, in the 1950s, Kate takes us into the dance rooms full of glamour and charm. A time when rock and roll was just emerging, when culture was going through a rapid change, through the stories of Patrick, Rose, Ava and Sheila we get to really feel a bit of that 1950s glamour. If you're looking for a charming romantic read you'll devour in a day, this is definitely the book for you. ...more
I think there's no reader, especially of women's fiction and historical fiction that hasn't heard of Anita Shreve Originally posted on This Chick Reads
I think there's no reader, especially of women's fiction and historical fiction that hasn't heard of Anita Shreve. She's a well known name and author of many brilliant books. The first book of her's I've read was The Pilot's Wife and it was kind of love at first sight moment for me. Naturally I was so excited to hear she's got a new book coming out and I couldn't wait to read it. While it's classic Anita Shreve that we know, I think this certainly is her best yet.
The book is based on real life events, a terrible fire that caught Maine in 1947. This dreadful event is the frame for the main story, a story of loss, hope, survival and new beginnings. The story is centered around Grace, a young woman in her early 20s, wife of Gene and mother of two young children under the age of 2. She's the pillar of the family, running errands, taking care of the house, making sure everyone is pleased and taken care of. However, her marriage is not the happiest. It takes her a lot of time to realize this. Gene is rude, secretive and treats her unkindly. She hardly sees him or makes love to him. For a woman of that age, naturally this is a problem. While her friend, Rosie is having the best marriage with loads of passion, it seems Grace will never get to have it. But she's not jealous, it's more like she's not even aware of what she's missing until she sees the life her friend, Rosie leads.
But one dreadful event, the fire that rages through Maine, a fire which will burn down her and many other houses, will be the event that will change her life forever. Gene is out to help out with the fire spreading and she's left alone to take care of her children, saving not only theirs but also the lives of Rosie and her kids. At such a difficult time she discovers her own strength and strong desire for survival. She's 5 months pregnant, unfortunately loses her kid. However, that doesn't stop her, she's got two little children to take care of.
Gene is missing and Grace moves in her deceased mother-in-laws house. And that's where everything starts really changing. Though she's got no time to mourn her lost child or house, Grace is certain she wants to move on.
I absolutely enjoyed this book! Many times I was close to tears, especially when the fire was raging and Grace was fighting for her life and the life of her kids. The strong mother's love was so well described, I even started imagining what I would do if I were in that horrible situation. What I loved the most is how Grace transforms, how she grows from the gullible 23 year old to strong, confident woman making some excellent choices.
The book delivers so many great messages, like the importance of understanding in a marriage, the need to rely on each other in times of a disaster or how one grows in most difficult of times. I love the fact Grace rose literally from her ashes, creating a new and better life than the one she had.
But the thing that I felt missing (and which is the reason I can't give it 5*) is the fact I wish I saw more of Gene's reasons for his behavior. I know there are a lot of mean people in the world, however I couldn't understand why he was treating Grace so badly or why she put up with that. I guess one of the reasons is that back in the 40s divorce was not an acceptable thing. Still, I wish I knew why Gene was so bitter, it would help me get a clearer picture of him as a character.
While there's some romance, it was gradually built and I absolutely love Ms Shreve's gentle approach thus showing a nice, American, family woman from the 40s.
Overall, this was truly an enjoyable read. It's short so I read it in about three hours and I absolutely loved the ending. Speaking of the ending, some things might be rushed by the ending but it all fit in perfectly. If you're looking for a great women's fiction/historical fiction to devour over the weekend, no need to look any further. Warm, emotional and carrying many strong messages, The Stars Are Fire is definitely a treat. ...more