Ireland – The Hotel on Mulberry Bay – Melissa Hill

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Why a booktrail?

1980s, 2000s – A story of a hotel, a place, whose fortunes are closely linked to the family and the community who live there.

Story

Mulberry Hotel sits perched on a cliff top above a sweeping bay south of Wexford in Ireland. It was once the heart and soul of the area and the community but time and lack of money has seen a once great hotel and home become a shadow of its former self.

Sisters Penny and Eleanor Harte grew up there and although Elle moved away, she has never forgotten the happy times there. So when family tragedy strikes and she is forced to return to Mulberry Bay, she is heartbroken to see the heart of the community struggling.

But the Harte family are not done with it yet and neither are the local community. But is it the hotel or the family that they are trying to save?

. Place and Setting

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Wexford Coast and Eyre Square in Galway as featured in the novel

Mulberry Bay is sadly not real but it is very much inspired by a real life hotel and the home town of the author Melissa Hill. Cahir in Country Tipperary is the real life Mulberry Bay having inspired Mellissa to write her story of survival and community spirit.

Mulberry Bay

Perched high on a hill above a sweeping bay, and overlooking the pretty little seaside town with a sugarloaf mountain as a backdrop, the Bay’s Coastal location and seafront bedrooms were a perfect haven for tourists.

This is a place that the sisters Eleanor and Penny have grown up and loved ever since. Despite Penny moving away to London, it’s Mulberry Bay which has stayed in her heart. The hotel, a tourist haven was their home growing up and so memories are embedded in its walls and floating in the air all around.

The sense of community in this small seaside town is admirable. For family tragedy unites them all and a secret kept by Ned, the girl’s father is endearing. His memories of the good old days, and how life seems to be recorded in every single Beatles song in his collection is a heartwarming way to reunite a place with your life time memories across the decades.

Review – Susan

Read with a soundtrack of the Beatles – you will not regret it for this book has so many things to make you smile and show you how both places and music can really enhance your memories of your past.

I did think before reading that this might be a twee story – community spirit etc saving a failing hotel, but I was so wrong. It is SO much more than this and rather about protecting what you love and trying to do the right thing. Community comes together yes but not in the way you think. this is realistic and very heartwarming. A tear came to my eye with Ned and what he did. Elle and Penny I warmed to immediately and Anna of course who was their mother.

Set in Ireland I felt worked well for this novel as there’s something about the Emerald Isle and its people which really lends itself to this kind of story. When I realised it was based on the author’s hometown (although the hotel is not in dire straits) I immediately wanted to go in the hope that I could meet my very own Harte family and their friends.

Melissa if you ever need a travel buddy? …

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An Irish Promise – Galway – Isabella Connor

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How revenge might be a dish best served cold but how love is a dish that appears on the menu when you least expect it.

Story in a nutshell

School bullies plagued the life of Rachel Ford so years later, she returns home in order to exact her revenge as she promised al those years ago. She wants to do something about the bullies who not only ruined her childhood but her life and that of her family. She is now an art historian but has never forgotten what happened in Kilbrook.

Australian actor Finn MacKenzie is also in Kilbrook and he has come to help his aunt with a school production. He seems to have a charmed life, yet behind this façade there is a lot behind the scenes. He and Rachel meet and sparks fly.

But what does Rachel do? blow her cover so to speak and her reasons for being in Kilbrook or give it another chance. For Kilbrook does not hold happy memories and Finn stands in the middle of her plans.

Place and setting

The Claddagh, Shannon airport and Galway Bay - Kilbrook is based around this area - idyillic and calm!
The Claddagh, Shannon airport and Galway Bay – Kilbrook is based around this area – idyllic and calm!

How you would feel returning to the village where all your bad memories are and where you spent the most unhappiest times of your childhood is a key question as you can imagine how Rachel must feel when you find out what the bullies did to her. Revenge might not be the most recommended result in this case but as we read Rachel’s thoughts in her diary, things started to clear.

Kilbrook might have been such a nice place – more like the Kilbrook she returns to had there been some person to have sorted out the bullies and stood up to them. This brings home how bullies can and do affect people’s lives and this doesn’t always stop in the classroom. Whilst you can understand Rachel’s wish to return, we feared for her having carried around this hatred for years.And why were they not stopped sooner?

But Kilbrook also has a wealth of places you’ll want to visit for real as they have such rural and country names such as the Fat Pheasant restaurant and the Gulliver’s cafe, Bracken hill – all sound like landscapes and places that you’d need to visit for real  – if only you could.

Finn is an actor from Australia  who comes into this setting all innocent and meets Rachel without knowing her story. It’s the sense of waiting to see him find out and his reaction to it that takes you further into the story and the nice Irish locations.

There are some lovely touches of local customs and beliefs such as the  Claddagh (symbolising love, loyalty and friendship). This is a ring but also “the shore”and is close to Galway city where the Corrib River meets the Galway Bay. Formerly a fishing village the Spanish Arch area was there the fish markets used to be.

Galway Harbour
Galway Harbour

The second book in the Emerald Isle series and I really think reading the first one is a must now since this was a good story to discover. Kilbrook and the Irish culture is always nice to hear about but the way in which a story of revenge and love was tied together in such an unassuming place was a nice touch and gave this ‘chick’lit’ novel edge. I actually hate the term chic lit and since this had some real dilemmas and questions in it, I’m loathe to give it such a title. This is romance of course but with Irish charm and I loved discovering where the bullies were now and how Rachel coped with meeting them years later.

Cuppa and a cake with Emma Hannigan – The Summer Guest

The table is set...
The table is set…

Emma Hannigan is a busy lady at the moment. She has been travelling and blog touring since last week. And she’s stopping off on the Booktrail today to chat about locations and places she loves to visit.

She’s just published her novel The Summer Guest and it’s a real weepie! Review on a separate post but for now I’ve been baking again as well, we are going to have a brew. Please take  a seat and join us.

Hi Emma come on in. Oops mind the cat. He’s not even mine – he just wanders in from next door. Still he looks like the cat from a Swedish children’s book called Pettson and Findus so it’s ok – 😉

Emma+Hannigan

I digress, but welcome again! Hope you like lemon drizzle. I thought we would have a cake fit for the summer.

The table is all set. I’ve also got a few travel brochures here for inspiration incase you need them, but I guess you don’t have much time to travel really do you?

I’m a real home bird and love nothing more than sitting around my kitchen table with as many family members and friends as I can shoe-horn in. My day-to-day life is pretty hectic. Between ferrying my children, cooking cleaning running a home and working full time and my on-going battle with cancer I cherish my downtime! Every now and again it’s a real treat to escape. 

So if you could pick only five places that you would recommend, what would they be?

emma

The places I’ve chosen are in no particular order as they all offer such diverse things! 

St Lucia – this gorgeous Caribbean island is probably the most relaxing place I’ve ever been. I’ve been several times including my honeymoon. It’s literally like living in the Bounty advert on TV for a couple of weeks.

Connemara – in the west of Ireland is where I go to exhale. My family have a little holiday home in a tiny enclave called Cashel and it’s where I go to find solace. The rugged landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly unspoilt.

Nerja – a short drive from Malaga, this pretty Spanish village is quaint yet full of restaurants and meandering cobbles streets. I love the language and food in Spain and for me the less hectic way of seeing this country is preferable.

Dromoland Castle – every New Year I go to this County Limerick retreat with my extended family to ring out the old year and welcome the new! This place is only a short drive down the motorway from home. I always arrive exhausted and leave rejuvenated. Although my liver may not agree!

London – I’ve never lived in London but several friends do. So I’ve been a regular visitor for many years. Even though it’s literally across the pond from home, I am always blown away by the difference between London and Dublin. The vibrancy and energy of this city never fails to inspire me. For me London is diversity personified.

Well you’ve certainly given me  taste to travel. Where should we go first? I quite like the idea of living in a Bounty advert but I can’t resist Spain. Ooh but that castle! Argh! It’s too lovely! I suppose I’ll just have to visit all five 😉

Thanks for your suggestions Emma!

 You can visit Emma at her website  – http://www.emmahannigan.com/ and via twitter – @msEmmaHannnigan

The Little Beauty of Ireland

Little_Beauty_cover (1)

Alison Jameson’s novel Little Beauty is set on a remote island community of the West coast of Ireland  and she’s chosen the booktrail to launch her blog tour!

We are so excited that we have made two cakes instead of one and are busy putting the icing on the second one when the doorbell rings. Oh that will be Alison! Now, whilst I’m answering the door, here’s a little taster of what we’ll be talking about – 

Little Beauty – inspired by Achill Island (Whale Island – Inis Miol Mor in the book)

1975: Laura Quinn has spent her life on the remote and beautiful island off the west coast of Ireland. Her parents have died and her lover continues to remain reluctant to commit in any way.

Having not had much adult guidance, she is desperate for some independence and a life of her own. So she gets a housekeeping job on the mainland but soon gets entangled in the lives of those she works for. Then she returns to the island and makes a decision that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Achill Island and Iniboken
A Inisbofin and B Achill Island

The setting – 

Whale island – ‘a small wet sponge of the west coast of Ireland

The island community – 

There was not peace in a place where everyone knew what you had for your breakfast

Laura’s journey into the unknown – with setting as her companion – 

She sat under the corrugated shelter surrounded by fishing nets and lobster pots. From there she could see the church spire and some of the village shops….

…With these storms there was always a chance you might get stuck on the mainland….

…The ferry began to lurch up and down on the waves…

Writing that evokes all of the senses.

Hi Alison! Make yourself at home, your cuppa and a cake await...
Hi Alison! Make yourself at home, your cuppa and a cake await…

Well Alison is here and sitting enjoying her first slice of victoria sponge. Hello Alison and thank you so much for coming over today. Since your novel is so evocative of the harsh island landscape, I just had to have you on the booktrail.

Keel Beach Achill Island
Keel Beach Achill Island

 You’ve said before how setting and landscape is very important to you as it gives characters backstory and  a way of life. Why did you pick Achill Island as inspiration and what does it enable you to do as a writer?

I spent a long weekend on Achill Island (which is off the west coast of Ireland) when I was about eight month’s pregnant. It’s a beautiful place but it can be wet and wild too. It struck me as being quite bleak and lonely and I began thinking about what a woman’s life might have been like there back in the 1970s. Because I was pregnant I was also thinking about motherhood and so these thoughts began to shape the character of Laura Quinn.

 

The ferry leaves isolation in its wake
The ferry leaves isolation in its wake (c) the booktrail

Laura tries to escape the island since it is so intertwined with her past – the ferry and the lighthouse represent isolation. Where did the inspiration for these come from (I understand Achill doesn’t have a lighthouse)?

I’ve taken a lot of ferries over the years and tend to seek out the nearest lighthouse on arrival. When writing Little Beauty I was really interested in the notion of people who are cut off from the rest of the world either because of their circumstances or because of the type of people that they are. Martin, the lighthouse keeper, holds Laura at a distance and the (often unreliable) ferry is the only way she can get off the island so I think these were important in creating her sense of isolation. 

(At this point Alison’s tea cup looks a little empty so I pore us both another cup. Aaah bliss)

You lived on a farm as  a child in Westmeath. Was this where your inspiration for the remote island community and the weather came from?

I would say the weather came from the time I’ve spent on Achill itself. Because it’s an island there’s a lot of wind and rain there.  The weather in Westmeath would be a lot milder . I really wanted to capture the dramatic changes in weather that you can experience on an island. Atmosphere is very important to me as a writer – I want the reader to feel that they are right there with the characters.

 

The landscape can be all comsuming
The landscape can be all consuming (C)the booktrail

Your language is very lyrical and poetic – I could feel the spray from the ferry on my face and hear the rain on the leaves before I saw it just like one of your characters. Are you a people watcher and a daydreamer?

Yes, I’m a day dreamer and an eaves dropper too! I took a train last weekend to Kerry for the Listowel Writer’s Week and after four hours felt I could start a novel based on any number of conversations I overhead. I’m naturally curious about people and love to hear their life stories – or imagine what their lives might be like.

 

Which parts of Ireland would you recommend people visit to ‘experience’ your book?

Achill definitely but also Inisbofin which is even more dramatic I think. Or really any part of the west coast. It’s very rugged and beautiful all the way from Donegal down to Kerry.

 

At a dinner party of 4 writers living or dead, who would you invite and why?

Annie Dillard, Alice Monroe, Kazuo Ishiguro and Daphne du Maurier. I would just like to talk to all of them about writing – and then ask how they overcome some of the challenges all writers face when writing a new book.

 

You’ve included a lot of references from the 1970s – from the music of the Carpenters to the political events with the IRA. Why did you choose to include these?

Really just to ‘bed down’ the 1970s so that the reader could get a sense of what it was like then. It doesn’t seem like such a long time ago but when you read about what was happening in the news then or listen to some music from that era it’s a whole world away.

Little_Beauty_cover (1)

So as I put Karen Carpenter on the ipod, her dulcent tones singing ‘Top of the world’ I spritz a little Charlie perfume on my wrist and we finish off the cake.

With thanks to Alison for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the victoria sponge – it was one of my mother’s recipes from the 1970s after all. Quite apt I think 😉

For more information about Alison and her writing, please visit  http://alisonjameson.com/     and be sure to stop by the rest of her whistle stop Blog tour this week! 

St Patrick’s Day in books

Happy ST PATRICKS DAY!!!

Well today is of course St Patricks Day so what better way to celebrate than by reading a book set in Ireland/Northern Ireland?

Follow the map – image courtesy of Google Maps

Belfast

Dublin

Sligo

Galway

Tipperary

 

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BELFAST 

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Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson 

Jake Jackson and Chuckie Lurgan are good friends. But one is Catholic and the other is Protestant–their journey and experience around their sectarian set at a time when Belfast was in the middle of  ‘The Troubles’, this is a poignant and often very funny look at Belfast.

“All stories are love stories” is the first sentence of this book. It’s not a love story in the traditional sense but a delicious tribute to the city of Belfast.

DUBLIN 

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Broken Harbour by Tana French

In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin –  two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy at first thinks its a sad case of a man’s financial woes troubles ending in the slaughter of his family. But many things just don’t add up…

To make matters worse, this case is a strange and painful reminder of what happened to his own family at the same places, when they were kids.

SLIGO

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‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ by Sebastian Barry

The tensions surrounding the Irish struggle for independence lie at the heart of this novel set in the town of Sligo about the tensions surrounding the Irish struggle for independence

A man joins the British-led police force the Royal Irish Constabulary, but ends up being labelled a traitor. As a marked man he goes on the run, but he sneaks back to Sligo whenever he can.

This is his journey and more of 20th Century Ireland, and of a man and a country both fighting to exist.

GALWAY

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‘Juno and Juliet’ by Julian Gough

This is a story of identical twins during their first year at university which sees them adjusting to life in the city, drinking in the bars and sometimes attending classes A coming of age story in which Galway itself is one of the main characters.

TIPPERARY

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Tipperary by Frank Delaney  – A novel of Ireland

The story of an itinerant healer born in 1860 who travels the countryside dispensing cures, discovering the story of Ireland through its people, and witnesses at first hand, the birth of land-reform measures destined to lead to Irish independence.

When he falls in love with April Jones who rejects him and so he returns to Ireland and decides to preserve an abandoned estate in tipperary which may belong to april and her father. As he travels and works, he meets such figures as Charles Parnell and George Bernard Shaw.

This is the story of a man’s passion for the woman he loves is intertwined with his country’s emergence as a nation.

This is only  a short tour of Ireland. But just goes to show that a small country has a wide wide range of literature and is covered with books set in various places all over its fair green isle!
Happy St Patrick’s Day!!!