Today is publication day for Deirdre Eustace’s novel Finding Alison, a simply wonderful book which I loved. I was drawn to the eye-catching front cover as, living by the sea myself, I do love stories with a coastal setting. The book starts off in dramatic style with Alison being awoken in the night by the local priest who tells her that her husband Sean is missing at sea, after taking out his fishing boat on a stormy night. The story then moves forward three years where we find Alison still struggling to come to terms with her loss and having a turbulent relationship with her teenage daughter Hannah. Drifter and artist William comes to the small fishing village of Carniskey and the two strike up a friendship.
I don’t think that I have ever made so many notes about the beautiful writing in a book. As you will see from the striking front cover, the sea has a prominent role in this book. It is an ever-present character and Deirdre Eustace has employed some vivid and stunning imagery to describe it. “The sea cha-cha’d in to meet her, its petticoat held high. Alison noticed the ocean’s dark-brown underdress: how its rippled its grey surface, refusing the sun.” Alison has a love-hate relationship with the sea. For all its wild beauty it has taken so much from her. She hates it since it took her husband and yet she cannot leave it as she feels tied to where they lived and loved. There was another beautiful section of prose where Alison describes the sea as the ultimate mistress “I’ve witnessed her gentle seductions, her flirting and teasing. That hypnotic allure… With her gentle comforts, her whispers of adventure, freedom and danger”. I must also mention Alison’s poetry, which of course is really the author’s poetry, in particular the wonderfully atmospheric To The Sea. I’m not a huge poetry fan but I thought it was a very touching, beautifully crafted piece of writing.
The title of the novel hints at one of the main themes, which is Alison beginning to find herself again, after the grief and loss of the three years since Sean went missing. Over the course of the book, she finds the space to begin to be herself again, to rediscover her own self-worth and begin to redevelop her self-confidence. Alison has so much to cope with and I was rather taken aback at some very unexpected turns in the story. She proves herself to be a strong woman, coping with some difficult and demanding situations.
Another contender for my books-of-the-year list, Finding Alison is a book to savour as you take time to enjoy the elegant, descriptive prose. There is a strong sense of place with the sea and watery imagery used to such great effect throughout the novel. It is incredibly moving and uplifting, particularly in the final chapters. Even when I had finished the book, I was still playing over some of the scenes in my mind and found it difficult to move onto my next read. (I believe this is known as a ‘book hangover’!) Finding Alison is a powerful, memorable story and one which I highly recommend.
Thanks to Lina Langlee at Black and White Publishing for my copy of the book. It is published today in both paperback and as an e-book. You will be able to buy it in good bookshops, order from the publisher’s online shop or order a Kindle copy here.
From the back of the book
In Carniskey, a small fishing village in Ireland, the community is divided, wracked by grief and guilt; love and resentment; despair and hope. Sean Delaney has been missing at sea for three years, and no one – least of all his grieving wife, Alison – knows what really happened to him. Having lost her husband, her financial security, and having grown distant from her daughter, Alison feels alone and estranged from the villagers. Sean’s mother has not spoken since her house was burgled after his disappearance, and Alison’s only friend, Kathleen, harbours secrets of her own.
Isolated by their stunning, yet often cruel, surroundings, the community is forced to look inwards. But when artist and lifelong nomad William comes to town, he offers Alison a new perspective on life – and love. What she doesn’t realise is that strangers have secrets of their own, and William’s arrival threatens to unearth the mysteries of the past.
A story of courage and humanity, we follow a community through their struggles and triumphs in love, loss and betrayal.As each of the characters strives to find their own sense of belonging, they are led to the realisation that it is only through the truth that they can truly find happiness.