Ireland – The Hotel on Mulberry Bay – Melissa Hill

MUL

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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Manchester – Vermont – Ireland – The Letter – Kathryn Hughes

LETTER

Why a booktrail?

1930s, 1970s – Manchester. Two women living decades apart in Manchester are united by one very important letter which was never delivered.

Story 

A novel of love and hope across the decades.

1930s/40s –  A letter written on 4th September 1939 will have consequences which reach out across the decades hoping that one day an answer will come and the truth will be discovered. For the letter from a young man named Billy to a girl Christina was never delivered but found in the pocket of an old suit, left in a charity shop.

1970s Manchester – Tina finds this letter and starts to try and find who wrote it and what happened to the people it speaks of. It is a a moving letter, full of heartbreaking emotion and the pull of curiosity is just too great to leave alone. Tina suffers from an abusive marriage and recognises the sentiments of feeling trapped, longing to escape one’s past. She feels that by communicating with a stranger in the past, she can make sense of the future and escape her own reality.

Place and setting

Manchester, Vermont and Ireland - all featured in a heartbreaking story! Manchester Central Library The bulk of the novel is set in Manchester and without giving anything of the plot away, Central Library in St Peter’s square plays a pivotal part.
Manchester, Vermont and Ireland – all featured in a heartbreaking story!
Manchester Central Library
The bulk of the novel is set in Manchester and without giving anything of the plot away, Central Library in St Peter’s square plays a pivotal part.

Manchester 1970s

– Ireland and Vermont are also mentioned in the novel but the main action is set in and around Manchester –

Tina Craig is married to Rick, a drunken yob who tries to control her at every turn. He steals her escape fund and her life is one of daily drudgery and violence. The moment she finds a letter in the charity shop where she works, her world becomes a bit more hopeful and wider. 1973 is the year of the Grand National and Rick is depending on a win. Red Rum to win for Tina knows what is coming if the horse does not come in.

This letter introduces her to another woman across the years and soon she parallels her life to that of Chrissie from the 1940s also suffering at the hands of a brutal man, this time her father who thinks he can control everything she does. The link between these two women stretches out against a bleak yet hopeful Manchester setting.

Manchester in the 1940s was not the place where women could go out freely with men and when if your parents didn’t like who you were dating, things could get very messy indeed. Girls were not expected to get pregnant outside of wedlock and men were expected to sign up to the war effort.

Manchester in the 1970s – Turns out history can repeat itself as social boundaries and personal freedom can be just as restrictive as they once were. Abusive marriages or the constraints of a father who ousted you from the family home for bringing shame on the family are both signs that what a person wants and what society sees and expects are not always the same thing.

The detail of the 1970s – evoked via tins of peaches, Carnation cream, and power cuts is crisp and clear. The fate of women in both the 1940s and 1970s are frightening and raw. Emotional on every level and a time to sit and think how times have thankfully changed for the better.

Review

Next time you go inside a charity shop, take time to look in the pockets of a coat because if there’s the chance it sets you off on an adventure like this then count me in! This is one heck of an emotional ride mind. It reminded me of the story of Philomena in some respects with a child born out of wedlock and the resulting torment it brings. Abusive relationships and the feeling that history can put things right – or at least try to, is explored with full effect.

I did find the portrayal of domestic violence hard to read and Chrissie didn’t really have it much better – the abuse she suffered from her father was inexcusable. But this was a different time – still wrong though.

I felt so emotional for the two women. Hated what was happening to them and willed that letter to be found and read out. Oh take tissues with you when you read this, it’s heartbreaking and so sad. There is an event which happens later on to Tina which made me really angry and I had to stop reading such was its powerful effect. Brilliantly portrayed and evoked.

How the two stories wove together was really clever and it was like placing a black and white photo underneath a colour one and seeing the two pictures form a new one. Very, very emotional.

One last thing – I love the fact that a library was at the centre of the story. The author tells us that you can actually get married in this library and when you see it, you know why. Ooh this book has introduced me to the wonder of charity shops and the fact that libraries are even more magical than I thought. And that one short letter can have such a huge impact.

Juno and Juliet – Galway, Ireland – Julian Gough

juno and juliet

Why the booktrail?

University life in Galway makes for a nice literary journey. Especially if you were going to go there but didn’t – now you can!

Story in a nutshell

A romantic comedy, this novel features the characters Juno and Juliet, 18 year-old blonde twin sisters, who arrive at university in Galway from their Tipperary home, and each set off on a romantic odyssey.

Place and setting

The National University of Ireland in Galway Eyre Square - where they have arrived at the start of the book off the bus The bedsite in New Road Renmore - suburb of Galway where Mrs Flannery lives a mile from the docks
The National University of Ireland in Galway
Eyre Square – where they have arrived at the start of the book off the bus
The bedsite in New Road
Renmore – suburb of Galway where Mrs Flannery lives a mile from the docks

Aah those university days – perfectly captured here in the witty tale of two sisters who attend university and head straight first into their days of independence and freedom –

“We spent out first night in Galway in sleeping bags on the living room floor”

Galway is a small town with a large university so many people turn up to find a place to live. Juno and juliet turn up a week before and apparently that is late. Yes, well,  that sounds very familiar indeed. The bit with the sleeping bags too. Oh and the classic line –

A lucky few had parents with the foresight to give birth to them in Galway

The feelings of panic, sheer disbelief at being away from home and knowing that this will be home for the next however many years. The sheer number of people milling about looking as if they know what they are doing and you’re the only one that doesn’t. The tea and sympathy given to the who sisters is in very great demand.

The moment they find the flat will elicit a cheer as it’s been quite a journey and this is only the very first step.

The love affair with Galway begins and everything is seen through the eyes of two young sisters who cannot wait to start really living and really enjoying their new city.

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!!!