I suspect I might have mentioned before, in passing, that Faith Hogan has very quickly become one of my favourite authors – and one of my favourite people too. It’s a delight and a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for her latest, The Girl I Used to Know, published on 1st December by Aria Fiction, and available for kindle, Kobo and on iBooks (and just 99p in all formats): my thanks to the publisher and netgalley for my advance reading e-copy.
I really enjoyed her first, My Husband’s Wives, a wonderful read about the intricacies of female friendship, love in its many guises, and a group of women each finding their own strength to move on – you can read my full review here. Then there was Secrets We Keep – described perfectly as “a bittersweet story of love, loss and life”, I think I might have liked it even more (review here). But this one… oh my goodness! They call it “a beautiful, emotive and spell-binding story of two women who find friendship and second chances when they least expect it” – and they couldn’t have summed it up any more perfectly.
Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.
Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.
By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.
It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.
This was one of those books that you’d like to go on for ever – I just couldn’t carve out any concentrated reading time this week (which would have been my idea of reading heaven), but every time I was forced to set this book aside I couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to pick it up, and it was constantly in my thoughts. The author’s writing is several notches more accomplished than it was in the earlier books (and I do distinctly remember using the word “accomplished” about them too), and the way this book succeeded in engaging my every emotion was quite exceptional.
The two women at this book’s heart are perfectly drawn. At the start you may just find them “interesting”, as their past and present is laid out before you – you might not even like either of them very much, even wonder how they can sustain a story. But it doesn’t take very long until you feel for them both with every fibre of your being – when a book moves you to tears (and several times), has you laughing out loud, brings a lump to your throat, and then makes you cry again with sheer joy, you know you’re reading something rather special.
Tess – in the present – is in her sixties, lonely (although she’d never admit it) and cantankerous, and you’ll wonder how you could ever grow to love her, but you will. The author herself is a great deal younger, but her insight into the mind and feelings of her creation absolutely took my breath away. It’s not difficult to find a lot you’ll recognise in Amanda too – and I just loved the strength she shows as she transforms her life and discovers those things that are most important for her happiness. And the relationship between the two women is just perfectly handled as they both feel their way forward. The supporting cast are excellent too – Tess’s mousy sister Nancy (and their interesting sibling relationship), Amanda’s obnoxious husband, her teenage daughter Robyn, gorgeous gardener Carlos, and the wonderful Kilker. And as for Matt… well, what a character he is! And then there’s the house, the flat and the square itself – almost characters in their own right.
The pacing – the ebb and flow – of the story is absolutely faultless, and its unfolding an absolute joy. Without a shadow of doubt, this is one of my favourite books of the year.
About the author
Faith Hogan was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.