7 October 2013

Book Review: The First Time I Said Goodbye by Claire Allan

"Would you hold on tighter if you knew you were saying goodbye forever?

In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a handsome US marine based in Derry.

Caught up in a whirlwind of romance which rivals the great love stories in the movies she so loves, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray.

But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise they may have said their first, and last goodbye.

In 2010, Annabel Jackson, reeling from the loss of her beloved father, agrees to accompany her mother Stella back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. 

As the pair arrive in Derry - they both start to realise that some times you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted in order to find what you have needed all along."

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy The First Time I Said Goodbye as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a big fan of Claire Allan's books - she doesn't seem to have much presence over here in the UK unfortunately but she is very popular in Ireland, where she is from. I love reviewing her books and spreading the word over here about how brilliant her books are, and how much I enjoy reading them. I was thrilled to receive a copy of her brand new book, The First Time I Said Goodbye. I have to say I was completely convinced by the cover at first, it seemed a bit 'old looking' to me, but now I've read the book, it does make sense a bit, although I do wonder if it could put younger readers off somewhat, especially those who judge a book by its cover and not the story inside!

Annabel Jackson is thrown by the loss of her beloved father, and seems to be walking about in a bit of a fog. When her grieving mother asks her to accompany her on a trip back home to Ireland from their native America, Annabel agrees, sure her mother will need help while she's there and she also wants the chance to meet the Irish side of her family. When both Annabel and her mum Stella arrive in Ireland, Stella is swept back all those years to her childhood, reunited with her sister Delia and the memories that are held between the pair. Annabel quickly realises there may be more to her mother's trip to Ireland that meets the eye, and is determined to learn more about her mother's past that she wants to reveal....

This book was very clever, being split between a story in the present day with Annabel as our main character and her mother Stella taking the backseat a bit, and the story set in 1959 with Stella being the main character and us learning about her love story. My favourite parts of the book by far were those set in 1959, learning all about life in Derry at that time, and Stella's very romantic story of falling in love with a handsome American marine who was stationed there. This really was a wonderful love story to read as it unfolded, and I was desperate for Stella and Ray to make their relationship work against the odds, and have a happy ending together. The way Allan writes the period is fantastic, everything from the houses to the clothes and the social life of Stella were perfectly written, and you really feel as if you're in the middle of the story with them all.

I did also enjoy the modern day setting, and I felt this highlighted the difference between life then and now very well too. I liked Annabel but I felt she was quite harsh on her mother in parts of the book, although I had to keep reminding myself she was grieving for the loss of her father too. Some of the parts where she is describing her emotions at times were really hard to read, and certainly made me think about a few things, it was quite emotional. I really loved the relationship she developed with her cousin, the two were hilarious and he was just what Annabel needed to lighten her mood and to inject a bit of fun into her life at that moment. Stella's past was cleverly told through flashbacks, and Annabel learns about it all at the same time we do, so it feels like we are discovering all this along with her which was interesting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and really found myself getting lost in the story of Stella and her beau, and I really enjoyed being in a different world for a while. It's a very touching and emotional story, but it was one that I didn't want to put down, I just wanted to keep reading each night. The different relationships in the book were so well written, and Claire Allan really knows how to get into the emotions of these characters, and put that across so vividly to her readers. The First Time I Said Goodbye was a fantastic read, one that keeps you hooked from the start, and I especially loved how the book changed between present day and 1959, you get the best of both worlds in this book. For me, this is possibly Claire Allan's finest story to date, and it's a shame we have to wait until 2015 for her next book! A super read for the autumn evenings.

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