Published: February 2020 by Hatchette Books Ireland
Category: Dual Timeline, Historical, Contemporary, Book Review
For almost fifty years, Katie Carroll has kept a box tucked away inside her wardrobe. It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland mother and baby home in the 1960s. The box contains a notebook holding the details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets.
The Paper Bracelet is inspired by true events, namely the harsh way unmarried mothers were treated, not only in Ireland where this story is set, but further afield as well. For a long time nothing was known about the injustices and heartbreak women suffered in mother and baby homes, run by nuns for women, and sometimes including young abused girls, whose families didn’t want the shame or stigma of an unmarried and pregnant daughter. Rachael English tells this heartbreaking story extremely well and with empathy.
The story unfolds, alternating between ‘then’ and the young women, who are not even allowed to use their own names, in Carrigbrack, and ‘now’ when we meet Katie Carrol, a former nurse in the mother and baby home. ‘Patricia’ waits for the parish priest to transport her to the home, unaware of the fate that awaits her.
The questions, the looks zipping between her parents, her mother’s weeping, her father’s controlled fury; they’d all blurred together. She regretted not running away. She’d considered getting the bus and boat to London, but she knew no one there, and the few pounds she’d saved wouldn’t have lasted long.
Katie Carrol, nearing seventy, is grieving after recently losing her husband. She is at a loss what to do next as the friends and neighbours who have been there with help and support, move on with their own lives. Her niece, a box of tiny identity bracelets and a diary give her a purpose and a long overdue opportunity to help those adoptees who are interested in searching for their birth mothers.
That the story came from several perspectives—someone who worked in a mother and baby home, the mothers themselves as well as some of the children who were adopted—gives a rounded view of events and how they affected individuals. Treated like slaves by so called ‘Christian’ nuns, the women were forced into manual labour in the fields and back breaking work in a steaming laundry until they were about to give birth. To make a bad situation even worse, they had to stay at the home until they’d worked long enough to pay off their ‘debt’.
Even if a mother loved and wanted to keep her child, wishes and pleas were dismissed out of hand and children were taken forcibly and the mothers were warned of the legalities if they even attempted to find their children.
‘That’s a dangerous notion,’ said Agnes, a flare of anger in her voice, ‘and one you’d do well to forget. We can’t allow silly young girls to harm innocent children. As for earning a living: what respectable employer would give work to the mother of an illegitimate child? And what about the good Catholic couples who can’t have children of their own? Have you thought about them? Should they be made to suffer?’ She gave a brisk shake of her round head. ‘Tell me, where does a girl from a decent family hear such ludicrous ideas?’
Rachael English has done a wonderful job of bringing these women to life, and showing that not quite all the nuns were lacking in kindness, decency and sympathy for the plight of the women. What horrors people inflict upon one another in the name of religion astounds and appalls. A powerful, poignant and compelling story.
I’m the author of five novels (so far): Going Back which was shortlisted for the most-promising newcomer award at the 2013 Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards, Each and Every One, The American Girl which was a number one best-seller in Ireland, The Night of the Party, and The Paper Bracelet. Like many authors, I also have a day job. I’m a presenter on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland.
Throwback Thursday this week looks back at a wonderful selection of short stories published in June 2016. Some serious, some raising a smile or a laugh, taking snippets from people’s lives.
This collection of short stories is a little gem. It runs the spectrum of emotions from differing points of view and age ranges, from the most joyful high to the depths of sorrow – emotional, sensitive, moving and tender. The stories convey sentiments we can all relate to and appreciate. There are sketches from all sorts of situations and each gives pause for thought. I enjoyed them all. Here’s just a very small taste, there are lots more.
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Book Review
For Sarah Peterson, it’s time for change. Coming out of a dead end relationship and having had enough of city life, she just needs to escape and have a fresh start – a new job, a new home and a new lifestyle. So when her Auntie Kay unexpectedly offers her the opportunity to take over her flower shop, Seaside Blooms, the timing could not be more perfect. She could escape to the beautiful seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, start a new chapter in her life – and learn how to run a business!
After three years Sarah is finally disillusioned with her commitment shy and insensitive partner Jason, and decides to call it a day. Leaving London for a weekend trip to her home town of Whitsborough Bay she’s sorry her parents are away for the weekend, but she can catch up with her Auntie Kay. Kay owns and runs Seaside Blooms and Sarah has happy memories of helping in the flower shop. Little does she realise the shop would soon be hers and her home would be back in Whitsborough Bay.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Coming Home to Heritage Cove, courtesy of Rachel’s Random Resources.
Five years ago Melissa left Heritage Cove after her then boyfriend, Harvey, let her down at the last minute. After the tragic death of her parents, Melissa felt she needed to leave the Cove where everything and everyone was a reminder. She had dreams of travel and a new, exciting life which she and Harvey were going to share. Now she’s back because Harvey contacted her to let her know Barney, the man who she considers her surrogate father, is in hospital after a bad fall.
A family ranch in Big Sur country and a legacy of Hollywood royalty set the stage for Nora Roberts’ emotional new suspense novel.
Caitlyn Sullivan, a daughter of Hollywood royalty, was already a star at ten, but still loved to play hide-and-seek with her cousins at the family home in Big Sur. It was during one of those games that she disappeared.
The story begins in 2001 with the death of Liam Sullivan, an iconic actor. He’d left Ireland when he was almost sixteen for New York and a job in the Meatpacking District. But he had wanted more. When he’d witnessed the magic of the silver screen he’d realised he’d found his more in the golden age of Hollywood. Meeting his wife, Rosemary, when they both starred in a musical, they had gone on to found a dynasty that spanned generations.
My thanks to Caroline Vincent for inviting me to take part.
About the Book
31 Dishes in 31 Days Following on a year later from the end of ‘The Serial Dater’ where Northampton-based technology journalist Isobel McFarlane had to date thirty-one men in thirty-one days, her health and beauty colleague, Donna Evans, is given the task of trying thirty-one under five hundred calorie dishes in thirty-one days and writing about it.
To add a complication, she has to cover her equivalent (Veronica) at their sister newspaper offices at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England, while staying nearby with her exuberant mother, Lesley, at her house in Tring, during the week.
On Donna’s first day she meets James, a married hottie who she can’t get out of her mind.
Is the whole project a recipe for disaster or a sweet success?
Published: January 2020 by Moonshine Cove Publishing
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Spiritual, Mystical, Book Review
Maggie and Charlie Latecomer, at the beginning of the last third of their lives, love each other but are conflicted over what it means to age well in a youth-oriented society. Forced into early retirement and with grown children in distant cities, they’ve settled into a curbed routine, leaving Charlie restless and longing for more
When the Latecomers and their friends discover a mystical book of indecipherable logographs, the corporeal world and preternatural world intertwine. They set off on a restorative journey to uncover the secrets of the book that pits them against a potent corporate foe in a struggle for the hearts and minds of woman and men the world over.
For Charlie and Maggie Latecomer it’s a second marriage for both of them. Their respective adult children don’t live within easy reach but the Latecomers love each other dearly and keep busy in early retirement with their artistic projects. Yet Charlie is restless and feels there should be more to life, regardless of age, and decides he needs to go to their cabin in Nova Scotia alone in search of the meaning of his life. Maggie is left angry at Charlie’s seeming disregard and self absorption, wondering what went wrong, beginning to question her beliefs and their relationship.
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Book Review
Sophia Perkins gives up her job as a teacher to realise a life-long dream of owning a second-hand bookshop. Free from the wearying monotony of marking until the early hours and swallowing the disappointment of trying to educate disinterested young minds, she embraces her new life.
This new story with a warm vintage feel brings to mind the age-old saying: Be careful what you wish for…
Mr Portobello’s Morning Paper is a lovely story. I saw it featured on Joanne’s blog and scooted off to Amazon straight away. It centres around Sophia Perkins. Still grieving the loss of her parents, as well as feeling disillusioned with trying to teach classes of seemingly indifferent children, she gives notice, leaves her job and fulfils a long held dream of owning her own second hand bookshop.
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Book Review
Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed
Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.
For the past two of her ten year marriage, Beatrice Halliday has been getting progressively more broody. Now, at last, she has a positive pregnancy test and can’t wait for her husband, Rich, to get home.
Published: April 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Category: Dual Timeline, Historical Fiction, Based on Fact, Contemporary, Book Review
Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.
My first experience of Hazel Gaynor’s books was The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, based on the life of Grace Darling, which I loved. I enjoy the fact there’s truth mixed in with fiction and The Girl Who Came Home is no exception. It tells the story of Maggie Murphy from Ballysheen, Ireland, who was travelling with a group of women from the village, bound for New York and booked on the Titanic for the ship’s maiden voyage in 1912. The story was inspired by events surrounding the true story of the Addergoole Fourteen, Irish emigrants from County Mayo.