Monday 4 March 2024

The Girl From Donegal by Carmel Harrington #TheGirlFromDonegal @HappyMrsH @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #BookReview


Donegal, Ireland, 1939

As the world teeters on the brink of WWII, Eliza Lavery is alone in the world after her fiancé, Davey, was lost following the Irish War of Independence. But a fateful meeting on the wild beauty of Ballymastocker Bay could change everything.

Hamilton, Bermuda, 2022

Eight decades later, troubled by her future, Saoirse O’Donnell walks on the pink sands of Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay. When she uncovers a connection to Eliza, all those years before, she hears a story that promises to influence her own heart – but that also reveals a long-buried secret.

Two women must each make a choice between their past and their present in this sweeping, epic love story spanning two continents, three generations, and joy and tragedy over nearly a century.

The Girl From Donegal by Carmel Harrington was published by HarperCollins on 29 February 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

As soon as I heard about this latest book from Carmel Harrington, I was intrigued and knew that I had to read it. My late Mum was from Donegal and I spent every summer of my childhood there. It feels like home.

I love a dual timeline story and in this novel the author has created a perfect narrative, sweeping over eighty years, it is a story of loss, grief and most importantly of love. From the wildness of County Donegal, to the beautiful pink sands of Bermuda, the reader is transported through the years alongside a cast of characters who are beautifully drawn, with spectacular stories. 

The prologue and opening of the story belongs to Saoirse; a young woman arriving on Bermuda to visit her Aunts Kate and Esme. Saoirse has packed much into her short life, spending time in Canada before returning to Donegal to open her own stables. Bermuda is her safe place. Her Aunt's house on Horseshoe Bay is the place that she ran to when her short-lived marriage ended, and she is back again. Newly engaged to Irish farmer Finn, but struggling to put her past behind her. 

The reader is then introduced to Eliza in 1939, she works for the Rathmullan Gazette in Donegal. Eliza is beautiful and intelligent, but she carries a sadness with her at all times. Her fiancé Davey was killed on a prison boat during the Irish War of Independence and shortly afterwards her parents and younger brothers all died in a house fire. When she meets Matthew on Ballymastocker Bay, she is charmed by his looks and his manners, she is also surprised by herself when she agrees to meet him for dinner. 

And so begins this beautifully interwoven story of two independent but vulnerable women, but the story is not all theirs. One of the most important characters is ninety-year-old Kate, who has spent the last fifty years living on Bermuda with her partner Esme. However, she has kept a lot of her early life very private and as the story progresses, the reader realises just how Kate and Eliza's story connect. 

Carmel Harrington has taken real life events and woven them into this fictional story. The horror of the sinking of SS Athenia on the first day of World War Two is sensitively handled and plays such a central part of this sweeping story. 

As both Eliza, and Saoirse battle their emotions, trying to make the right decision about their future, the author creates shocking and unexpected events that leave the reader reeling, and that add such depth and emotion to the story. 

This is a beautiful story set over many years and two continents, it deals with grief and loss so very well, yet there is always hope for the characters, and love .... it's the love that gets them through. 

A stunning story, told with care and compassion. Highly recommended. 

Carmel Harrington is from Co. Wexford, where she lives with her husband, her children
and their rescue dog, George Bailey. 

A bestseller and regular panellist on radio and TV, her warm and emotional storytelling has captured the hearts of readers worldwide.

Carmel’s novels have been shortlisted for Irish Book Awards, and her debut, Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, won Kindle Book of the Year. 

Instagram @happymrsh

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