From the opening pages of this stunning debut, in which we find Katherine in an encounter with a seal I was drawn in hook, line and sinker.
This is an extraordinarily rich piece of work that features extensive use of symbolism and metaphor and beautiful characterisation, particularly in the case of the main character, someone we really feel we’ve lived a life with.
It’s set in Northern Ireland in two periods of time, firstly in 1949 as Katherine is preparing for a role in Carmen and then in 1969 when she’s been long since married to George Bedford. When she takes up the role in Carmen she embarks on a relationship with her tailor, Tom McKinley, and the outcome of this is something that haunts the rest of the narrative.
Belfast is of course a very different place in 1969 and the book plays out against the background of trouble flaring up in the city. There’s some particularly disheartening moments involving the children as we see the impact of the sectarian divide and the unravelling the city.
It’s a book about many aspects of love and the memory of a period of time reverberating throughout a lifetime and it makes for a hugely assured debut that shows incredible vision.