Review – Things We Never Say by Sheila O’Flanagan

By | April 20, 2014

Abbey Andersen is the last person to go looking for change. Yes, it’s tough that she barely sees her mother these days – but in San Francisco she has great friends, a steady relationship and a job she enjoys. When Abbey is contacted by Irish lawyer Ryan Gilligan she learns in an instant everything she believed about her roots is a lie. She must travel to Dublin to find out more – but she’s scarcely off the plane when she’s plunged into a new crisis. One that will change everything not just for Abbey but for the family in Ireland who had no idea that she even existed. Now Abbey has to make a choice that will affect everyone she knows. How can she be sure she makes the right one? And can life ever be quite the same again?

It’s been many years since I last picked up a book by Sheila O’Flanagan – I have no idea why, there are plenty of them on my shelves, just too many new writers vying for attention I guess.  Her new one, Things We Never Say, is published in paperback on 24 April by Headline Review and is – unbelievably – her eighteenth full-length novel.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m so pleased I’ve rediscovered her writing.

This is an excellent story set mainly in California and Ireland.  In San Francisco, Abbey Andersen leaves her job at an art gallery to become a nail artist, gets unceremoniously dumped by her feckless boyfriend and evicted soon afterwards, is deep in debt and surviving with the support of her mother’s former boyfriend Pete. In Ireland, we meet the Fitzpatricks, overbearing father Fred living in his luxury home in Howth and continuing to overshadow the lives of his adult children Donald, Gareth and Suzanne, and those of their families, all with their own problems and issues.  The storylines come together when Abbey is visited by an Irish investigator with news that has far-reaching impacts on them all.

Abbey is a particularly likeable character and a good focus for the story – I really liked her relationship with Pete, her interactions with her mother, and her strong conscience that governs her actions and decisions.  The Fitzpatrick family are wonderfully drawn too – particularly the wives who drive the story, and I had a particular soft spot for Suzanne and her plans to convert a derelict Spanish hotel. The story is really excellent, the modern day drama having its roots in a grave injustice from the past. I know some previous reviewers have found it just a little slow, but I never found it so – Sheila O’Flanagan has a wonderful ear for dialogue and I enjoyed the way she used it to move the story forward.  And it’s a “grand” story, and a very enjoyable read, with plenty of twists and turns and family secrets revealed to keep you turning the pages.  

Sheila O’Flanagan’s books, including Someone Special, Bad Behaviour and Yours, Faithfully, have been huge bestsellers in the UK and Ireland; they are all available from Headline Review. Prior to taking the decision to write full time, Sheila pursued a very successful career in banking and finance. In her spare time she plays competitive badminton and is currently a director of the Irish Sports Council. She has an excellent website where you can find out more about her and her books, and she can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Headline Review for my advance reading e-copy.