Thursday 5 May 2022

What Eden Did Next by Sheila O'Flanagan BLOG TOUR #WhatEdenDidNext @sheilaoflanagan @headlinepr #BookReview @RandomTTours #MyLifeInBooks


Five years after the death of her firefighter husband, Eden knows better than anyone that life can change in an instant. Now, instead of the future she had planned with Andy, she has Lila - the daughter he never got the chance to meet. And instead of Andy, she has his family.

Then Eden meets someone. Someone she knew before Andy, before Lila, before the tragedy. Someone who reminds her of how she used to be. But Andy's mother has other plans. And Eden is facing an impossible choice. One that could tear a family apart . . .

Honest and emotionally gripping, What Eden Did Next is an irresistible, sometimes heart-breaking, ultimately joyful, novel of love, loss - and finding your own way to happiness.

What Eden Did Next by Sheila O'Flanagan was published on 28 April 2022 by Headline Review. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

I'm also delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today as she shares her My Life in Books.

What Eden Did Next is Sheila O'Flanagan's 30th novel. I have read every single one of them. Her books have accompanied me through most of my adult life. They were there when I was seriously ill, when I married for the first time, then divorced, and then found happiness again. Her books are soothing and comforting. They bring joy and sunshine into the darkest of days.

I absolutely inhaled this book, my nose was buried deep within the pages for the whole of a train journey to London, and then again on the way home.

Eden is a fabulously created character who the reader cannot fail to back all of the way. Whilst she is only in her late thirties, her life has been full of tragedy, yet she's a woman who is determined to make the best of what she has. She's strong willed and creative and has many obstacles to over come.

Orphaned as a ten-year-old, Eden spent her formative years with her childless Aunt and Uncle. They didn't appear to be the most loving of couples, but provided a steady beginning for her. When she met and married Andy, and was welcomed into his vast and loving family, she felt at home, at last. Then tragedy struck once more, and Eden become a young, pregnant widow.

Five years later, she and her daughter Lila have made a good life together. Eden misses Andy every day, she still loves him and she writes to him, telling him about her life, and about the daughter that he never got the chance to meet. Eden has given up her nursing career and now provides home care for elderly people. She also does calligraphy, and makes a small income from that too.

Andy's family remain a big part of Eden and Lila's life, and as time passes and Eden grows in strength, she begins to realise that putting Andy on a pedestal as his mother always does, is not helping her to move on. 

It is the reappearance of a very old friend, Rafe, that really convinces Eden that she needs to loosen the ties with Andy's family, but it's not easy. Eden is a kind and considerate person, she appreciates everything that has been done for her, but she's young, she's not prepared to give up everything just to please Andy's parents. 

Sheila O'Flanagan's writing is an absolute delight. She has created a community of characters who the reader will most certainly recognise. From the local residents committee, to the wise old lady who speaks her mind, each and every one of them is a delight to discover. 

Woven into this novel are some very important issues. The author looks at loss and grief and self doubt, she examines Eden's feelings about being loved and losing people. Her detailed description of how a grieving mother can become blinded by her memories are heart breaking at times. 

Once more, this author will delight her fans. What Eden Did Next is wonderfully written and a joy to read. Highly recommended. 

My Life in Books - Sheila O'Flanagan

When I was younger I absolutely devoured this school story series, saving up my pocket money every week so that I could go to my local bookshop and buy the next one. I loved that the main character, Jo, was bookish and had a ‘bad chest’ just like me, and that she was always getting into trouble (also like me!). I also loved the Alpine setting, the development of the characters over the years, and the fact that everyone spoke at least three languages. 

I discovered this wonderful author in my late teens, and this is my favourite of her romantic thrillers, all set in the late fifties/early sixties. Linda Martin lands a job as a governess to a young French boy but soon begins to realise that all is not well in the chateau where he’s being raised by his aunt and uncle. It’s wonderfully atmospheric, with fabulously descriptive writing, a dollop of French glamour and just the right amount of romance. It made me feel part of a very sophisticated world when I first read it, and, as an homage, I gave it a mention in my own book that journeys through France, The Women Who Ran Away.

I recently re-read this semi-autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath and was once again struck by the ferocity of the writing. When I first read it, in my early twenties, I related to Esther’s fears about her future, her sense of identity, and her frustrations at a patriarchal society, all of which seemed very relevant to me, and themes that I wanted to write about myself. This time I was more attuned to the difficulties of Plath’s mental health, while still feeling the depth of her personality on every page.

Widely regarded as her most controversial novel because of the twist in the tale, this is a masterclass in storytelling and knowing what to reveal to the reader. At that point in my life I was beginning (but never finishing) my own work, and I marvelled at Christie’s ability in plotting and planning the novel, and keeping the reader hooked until the very end.

Published in 1980 this is a glitzy blockbuster and I’d never read anything like it before.
The sprawling saga gallops along as it covers the ill-fated romance between Daisy’s parents, the tragic actions that open a schism in the family, and Daisy’s life in America after she’s lost her family fortune and has to go out to work. It’s storytelling at its best and I admire how Judith Krantz kept me enthralled by impossibly glamorous characters and their train-wreck lives. It also made me realise that a well-told story will keep you turning the pages every time.

I grew up in an area close to the fictional Barrytown of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, The  Snapper and The Van, and his depictions of urban life are instantly recognisable. When The Commitments was first published to a wider audience in 1990 it was thrilling to see the depiction of a different Ireland to the one of emerald green fields and leprechauns that we were all so used to. Roddy Doyle’s international success while firmly writing about Dublin, was inspirational to many Irish writers, me included.

My Life in Books - Sheila O'Flanagan - May 2022

Sheila O'Flanagan is the author of nearly 30 bestselling novels including Three Weddings and a Proposal, The Women Who Ran Away, Her Husband's Mistake, The Hideaway and The Missing Wife. 

She lives in Dublin with her husband.

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