Now you all know by now that I can’t let a Faith Hogan blog tour pass by without being part of it, don’t you? It’s a real 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 from Amazon in the UK and US, also via Kobo, iBooks and BookBub. I’ve loved all Faith’s books, but I think this one might just be my favourite – it was one of my books of the year in 2017, and I’ll share my review with you again, together with an excellent guest post from the author, and the chance to win a signed copy.
A beautiful, emotive and spell-binding story of two women who find friendship and second chances when they least expect it. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan.
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 (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.
I’m delighted to welcome author Faith Hogan as my guest today, with a wonderful post she’s called “A Sense of Place”…
My books are firmly set in Ireland – I’ve lived here all of my life, I suppose, I’m what they call ‘a home bird.’ It’s not that I haven’t left my own corner, I’ve lived in quite a number of different counties, thanks to work and college and at one stage, considered a move to the states. I love to go on holidays and explore and I’ve stood in awe many times at the beauty of various parts of the world, but I’m always pulled back to home. I’m sure that in Ireland we can’t compete with some of the jaw dropping sights in other countries, the charm of our little isle is often modest and simple by comparison. Our lure is more profound than the ageless images of red haired colleens and donkey carts treading out among the heather. I think in Ireland, there is a tribal drumbeat that pulses through our rivers and it draws us back, no matter how many generations have come between. Dublin, with its cobbled paths, histories of battle and peeling bells has within its streets a resonating melody than connects us to each other, so no matter how many generations you are away from your ancestries; you are always coming home when you arrive here.
The Girl I Used To Know is set in an old Georgian Square in Dublin – I called it Swift Square – since there isn’t one named after the wonderfully sardonic and brilliant Jonathon Swift. Dublin is full with houses just like the one in my story. Although many were demolished to make way for the new, we still have hundreds of fine examples and a number of squares still intact. These houses were built in grand terms, with intricate detailing and sturdy underpinning. For the most part, they are red brick, their brightly coloured doors famous the world over, as a ‘cead mile failte,’ to welcome all who come here.
I suppose the thing about Georgian Houses is that they are all designed to look the same – the Georgians prized regularity. I like the idea of this uniformity on the outside, when inside everything is at odds. In The Girl I Used To Know, the fairy-tale life that we imagine Amanda King lives is not at all as seamless as even she has believed. Rather, it turns out that everything she has built up over the years is a lie and as the novel opens, the reader gets some inclination as to the reality of her life. To the outside world, Amanda has the perfect home, the perfect friends, the perfect family and of course, to top it all off – the perfect marriage.
As with the Georgian house, there is a past to her story and like the scratches and dents that an old house accumulates; Amanda’s life has been fashioned as much by her history as by the prevailing winds of her situation.
Downstairs, Tess too has a story to tell. Her life has been shaped by the choices she’s made and the paths she’s chosen to walk. The self-containment that she has managed to achieve through freezing off her connections with everyone around her, is soon to crash about her ears whether she likes it or not.
All of those decisions, paths and history have converged, so both Amanda and Tess are sharing a house, but they’ve never managed to make this beautiful edifice a home. All the twinkly lights from Habitat count for very little when the foundations are rotting from within.
I think sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom before you can step forward and Tess and Amanda both reach that point where they have no other choice but to make a change. For a start, it’s about admitting to themselves that the life they’ve pretended is ideal is far from consummate and in fact they are both very miserable. In some ways, it’s the worst possible thing, that the person they both dislike the most, is the one who witnesses their lowest point, but in the end, who better to boost you up than the one you least expect.
The constant in their lives is that grand old dame, the house on Swift Square that eventually becomes a home. Dublin works it’s magic, so there is a reaching out, a pulling in together and like that drum beat that connects us all, it breathes a second chance into the lives who are prepared to let it in.
Thank you Faith – a perfect post, and a real pleasure to feature the book again today.
With thanks to Faith and tour organiser Brook Cottage Books, I’m delighted to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of this lovely book (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About the author
Faith Hogan is an original voice in women’s fiction. Her stories are warm and rooted in a contemporary Irish landscape which has lost none of its wit, charm or emotion thanks to its modern vibe. Faith 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 was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.
Her debut novel My Husband’s Wives is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin, published by Aria Fiction in 2016. Her second novel, Secrets We Keep, was published in February 2017 – it was included on the Netgalley ‘Hot List 2017.’ Her third novel, The Girl I Used To Know, was published in December 2017.
She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a rather busy chocolate Labrador. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!