It’s my turn on the Blogtour After Dad by Claire Shiells.
After the Author
Claire Shiells grew up in rural Northern Ireland during the Troubles where she had the best of times and the worst of times. She calls herself Northern Irish except on St Patrick’s Day when she is inexplicably full on Top-Of-The-Morning-To-You Irish. Claire now lives in London and in her last life (before the longest maternity leave ever) was a journalist and magazine editor. After Dad is inspired by a true event and is her first novel. Follow @claireshiells on Twitter
About the book
A bittersweet love story exploring why good people sometimes do bad things… – Millie Malone, a spirited, thirty-something journalist returns home to Northern Ireland after a life-changing decision leaves her London life in ruins.
A family reunion soon unravels, opening old wounds and igniting new grievances regarding the murder of her father by the IRA decades earlier. Retreating to the family cottage in Donegal, Millie soon meets Finn McFall, a fisherman originally from west Belfast, who loves to paint and recite Irish poetry.
In the new modern Ireland, Millie believes religion is no longer a barrier for love. But she soon finds home is a place still struggling with a fragile peace and simmering sectarianism.
As events unfold, Millie is forced to decide between love and loyalty, eventually having to ask herself the ultimate question: can love really conquer all?
If anything, this story lays bare the fragile hold on the anger, resentment, passion and in general the multitude of complex emotions framed in a tumultuous history, that exists even now in 21st century Ireland. I think in that sense Millie is overly optimistic. Old grievances die hard and there is such a thing as generational trauma.
The trauma she herself has experienced is a little bit like a bomb thrown into the midst of a family, and the shockwaves reverberate decades after. Violent death always leaves scars and living under the umbrella of constant threat of harm or death influences people in a way that is personal to them. No one experience is the same.
In a way I also think the ending of this book speaks to exactly that fragility, and the fact some people are unable to move beyond what they prioritise as more important than more menial things, such as relationships and family. Recognising that is a coming-of-age moment and includes the ability to move as one, as opposed to moving as an entity of a greater idea, ideology or even sense of identity.
I want to give credit to the sub-plot, which in the grand scheme of the story may appear minor but is poignant in its own way. Perhaps because the author addresses a controversial issue, and for a moment there I thought it was going to go a bit right field, in a way that shines a light on how difficult it is for women to make certain decisions and how the world gaslights them by saying it is a lightweight and inconsequential one made out of convenience. Just want to point out that the why is irrelevant, as is the way each individual feels about said choice. None of your business or my business for that matter.
This is a poignant and heartfelt read; I hope to read more by this author in the future.