3 September 2015

Book Review: My Mother's Secret by Sheila O'Flanagan

"When Steffie helps her two siblings organize a surprise wedding anniversary party for their parents her only worry is whether they'll be pleased. What she doesn't know is this is the day that her whole world will be turned upside down.

Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can't bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you?

As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they're expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it's not going to be for the reasons they imagined..."

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy now.

Amazingly, this is Sheila O'Flanagan's 20th novel - what a triumph! Her stories are superb, her appeal reaches across the generations and I always look forward to her latest releases. It was no different for this new book, My Mother's Secret. I was heavily anticipating reading it, and luckily, Sheila didn't let me down with this one! While I did guess the secrets as the book progressed, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story at all, and I really enjoyed reading about this family of characters.

Steffie is unsure when her older sister Roisin decides to throw a surprise anniversary for their parents, knowing that the pair would far rather have a quiet dinner for two than the huge bash being planned for them. However, she goes along with it and the event certainly goes off with a bang. Just as the celebrations are beginning, Steffie's mother Jenny drops a big bombshell that shocks everyone at the party - least of all Steffie.

Family dramas are some of my favourite reads, so I was most definitely looking forward to finding out what Jenny's secrets were. As I said, I worked out the secrets from the hints dropped up to the big reveal, but I somehow didn't mind - I simply cared more about reading the reactions of the family to the reveal, and the fallout that was inevitably going to come from it. Sheila's writing was, as usual, brilliant and drew me in to the story, the family dramas and made me want to keep turning the pages until I reached the end. I liked how she blended the secrets with the other elements of the story - the new romance of Steffie's brother Davey, Steffie's budding romance with a local chef, as well as the past history of Jenny and Pascal.

All of the characters in this book were great to read about, and I thought they were well-fleshed out, realistic and I cared about reading more of their story. The dynamic between Roisin and Steffie was fun to read, with Roisin taking on the archetypal big sister role, stressing herself out at the pressure of party organising, and also when the rest of the family starts to fall apart. Steffie was much less responsible, struggling to make ends meet in her job as graphic designer, but still helps out her sister with the party. Their brother Davey, who lives abroad, was less present in the book but I still enjoyed reading about him and his girlfriend Camilla, it certainly added something a bit different to the book.

One of the best things about this book for me was Sheila O'Flanagan's descriptive writing. When a big storm hits the town of Wexford, she describes it so well, it feels really dramatic as you are reading. Everything from the flooding roads, to the soaked party guests were written brilliantly, and you can really feel the tension when things start to dramatically fall apart as the storm hits. The reactions and fall-out from the revelations in this book are what make it so readable, and I was left wondering if the family would ever get over what was going on! This story was brilliantly written, enjoyable to read from the start, and while it was a bit predictable at parts and I had easily guessed the secrets within, I still very much enjoyed the read. It's amazing that it is Sheila's twentieth novel, and I look forward to many more.

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