I was thoroughly delighted when Rachael English sent me an advance-reading e-copy of her latest book, The American Girl, published today (13th April) by Hachette Ireland. And it wasn’t just because of that glorious cover – I’m a bit of a fan of her writing. I’ve reviewed both her previous books – Going Back and Each And Every One – here on Being Anne, and thoroughly enjoyed both. But with this one, I think her writing is even better – and the story simply wonderful. Take a look at this:
From a storyteller who combines the warmth of Maeve Binchy with the elegance of Maggie O’Farrell comes an unforgettable new novel . . .
Boston 1968. Rose Moroney is seventeen, smart, spirited – and pregnant. She wants to marry her boyfriend. Her ambitious parents have other plans. She is sent to Ireland, their birthplace, to deliver her daughter in a Mother and Baby home – and part with her against her will.
Dublin 2013. Martha Sheeran’s life has come undone. Her marriage is over, and her husband has moved on with unsettling speed. Under pressure from her teenage daughter, she starts looking for the woman who gave her up for adoption more than forty years before.
As her search leads her to the heart of long-buried family secrets, old flame Paudie Carmody – now a well-known broadcaster – re-enters the frame.
From Boston to rural Ireland; from Dublin back to Boston, The American Girl is a heart-warming and enthralling story of mothers and daughters, love and cruelty and, ultimately, the embrace of new horizons.
Warmth and elegance are perfect words to apply to this book, but there are other words I’d choose too – enchanting, emotional, heart-breaking, ultimately uplifting and just perfect. This was a book I really struggled to put down, and on the occasions when I had to, I was constantly thinking about it. The story is deceptively simple – the 1960s story of Rose, forced to give up her child in the cruellest way, and the present day story of Martha, deciding the time has finally come to find her real mother. But the way it twists and turns, introduces the unexpected, pulls you in emotionally, makes you gasp aloud, convinces you that nothing else matters other than these people and their lives – that’s the work of a really accomplished author.
There was nothing I didn’t love about this book, but I particularly loved the characterisation. Both Rose and Martha soon won their places in my heart, but their interplay with other characters was wonderful too. In the 1960s story I loved Rose’s supportive brother, was won over by the charm of Joe, and hated with a passion those who tore her away from her child. And in Martha’s story, her friend Cat is magnificent (and not only for the touches of lovely humour), Martha’s daughter’s teenage enthusiasm so infectious, Paudie and the whole story surrounding him just perfectly done.
The relationships and their different dynamics work so well – so many variations on the mother/daughter theme (always a personal favourite), friendship, relationships, the secrets within families, the actions of which people are capable in the name of love. I enjoyed the setting too – the changing face of Ireland over the years, the way things change more slowly away from the cities, the things that never change – and the cultural references setting each story in its particular time. And, perhaps above all, I absolutely loved the story – a sweeping, all-consuming one that holds you in its thrall from first page to last.
Maeve Binchy and Maggie O’Farrell? I’m not sure – and no comparisons are needed. Rachael English is a wonderful story teller, with a style and panache all of her own – and this is a book I’d recommend most highly.
Meet the author
I’m the author of three 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 which like Going Back was a top five bestseller in Ireland, and The American Girl.
Like many authors, I also have a day job. I’m a presenter on Ireland’s most popular radio programme, Morning Ireland.