How do you know where you belong?
In June 1988, Elizabeth Kelly's parents think she belongs at home in Ireland. Her boyfriend is certain of it. Unwilling to settle down just yet, she decides to spend the summer in Boston with her college friends. But the next four months change all of them, especially Elizabeth. Quiet and dutiful at home, she surprises herself and everyone else by falling for Danny Esposito, a restless charmer with a troublesome family.
More than 20 years later with opportunities in Ireland scarce once again, a new generation looks to America, awakening memories of a golden summer for their parents. When a crisis occurs, Elizabeth returns to Boston where she is drawn back into the life she once lived. But will she be able to reconcile the dreams of her 20-year-old self with the woman she has become?
Going Back was published by Orion on 22 May 2014, and is the debut novel from Rachael English.
This is a story in two parts. Elizabeth Kelly and a group of friends are spending the summer in Boston, it's 1988 and times are hard in Ireland. Their time in America is a chance for them to spread their wings, away from the prying eyes of their overprotective parents. They will live a little, work here and there, enjoy life and then return to Ireland to get on with the rest of their lives. That's the plan.
Elizabeth has a steady boyfriend back in Ireland. Steady, dependable Liam. Local boy, husband material, but really not very exciting. Life in Boston is fun despite the cramped living arrangements and the bitchy behaviour of flatmate Orla. Elizabeth is working hard and enjoying a summer of freedom.
Enter Danny. Elizabeth and Danny are drawn together and slowly but surely they fall in love. They are both guarded and wary, never really opening up and revealing their true feelings to one another. And then it ends. Suddenly and unexpectedly, and painfully. Elizabeth returns to Ireland and becomes everything that was always expected of her, a wife and mother.
The second part of Going Back takes place around twenty years later. Ireland is in the middle of another recession and the young people of the country are once again leaving to find something better across the ocean in the USA. Elizabeth's daughter Janey is one of them and when she is admitted to hospital whilst in Boston, Elizabeth finds herself back in the place that holds so many memories. Danny and Elizabeth meet again, after so many years. How will they deal with their feelings, their memories and their 'what could have beens'?
Going Back is an impressive debut novel. Rachael English writes with authority about life for young people in Ireland during the 1980s. Her writing is polished and classy, and her experience as a journalist shines through in her attention to detail. Those of us of a certain age will recognise many of the songs included in this story, and the fashion and hairstyles which adds to the authenticity of the story.
With themes of escape, and love and regrets; Going Back is a novel that starts slowly, but develops, along with the characters into a story that has meaning and emotional impact.
My thanks to the author, Rachael English who sent my copy for review.
Rachael English is a presenter on Ireland's most popular radio show, Morning Ireland. During more than twenty years as a journalist, she has worked on most of RTE Radio's leading current affairs programmes, covering a huge range of national and international stories. Going Back is her first novel and was nominated in the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year category at the Irish Book Awards.
Follow her on Twitter @EnglishRachael
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