I used to say that books didn’t make me cry but that was before I read Carmel Harrington’s books! My review copy came with a packet of tissues, as you can see from the photo above, and yes I did need them, on several occasions! The Woman at 72 Derry Lane is about two women, Stella and Rea who live next door to each other in Derry Lane. Stella is married to Matt and they seem the perfect couple but behind closed doors, life is not so perfect for Stella. Rea, who is the eponymous woman at number 72, hasn’t left her home in ages as she suffers from severe agoraphobia and is widely believed by the neighbourhood to be a bit mad. Between their stories we also read about young Skye and her family on a dream holiday in 2014, a dream holiday which goes horribly wrong.
I should warn you that as well as needing hankies, you need to set aside some time to read this book as once you start you will become so immersed in the story and so invested in the characters that you won’t want to put it down. Carmel Harrington has a real knack of creating characters who are immediately believable and who you want to see overcome their problems. She has been dubbed the ‘Queen of Emotional Writing’ and I think that title is richly deserved. I could not help but feel desperately sorry for both Rea and Stella, women trapped in different ways and both feeling they had no way out. “… sometimes things can creep up on you and, before you know it, you’re in so deep, you just can’t find a way to get out.” Through an initial tentative contact, the women begin to develop a friendship and start to believe that there is hope for them and that they can somehow find the courage to break free from their situations. The bravery of Stella and Skye in particular to cope with and escape their circumstances is conveyed with authenticity and sensitivity, though Rea had to brave in her own way too.
The Woman at 72 Derry Lane is a wonderfully warm-hearted read about resilience, the enduring bonds of family ties, the power of friendship and it is full of emotion. The strength of the women to cope with adversity and face the future with hope makes it such an uplifting read. All the stars for this book and straight on my list of top reads for 2017. (Joining The Things I Should Have Told You which I read and loved earlier this year.)
My thanks to Margaret Madden at Bleach House Library for my copy of the book which I won in a giveaway on her blog. The Woman at 72 Derry Lane was published as an e-book by Harper Collins on 15 June and will be available in paperback in the UK in November. You can order a copy online here.
From the back of the book
On a leafy suburban street in Dublin, beautiful, poised Stella Greene lives with her successful husband, Matt. The perfect couple in every way, Stella appears to have it all. Next door, at number 72 however, lives Rea Brady. Gruff, bad-tempered and rarely seen besides the twitching of her net curtains, rumour has it she’s lost it all…including her marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip.
But appearances can be deceiving and when Stella and Rea’s worlds collide they realise they have much in common. Both are trapped in a prison of their own making.
Has help been next door without them realising it?