Book Review : Little Beauty by Alison Jameson

July 3, 2013 Book review 0 ★★★

I really wanted to love Little Beauty more than I actually did.  I loved the setting but the overall feel of the book was depressing and made for a heavy, emotional read but still one I’m glad I read.

Book Review : Little Beauty by Alison JamesonLittle Beauty by Alison Jameson
Published by Doubleday Ireland on 4 July 2013
Genres: Womens Fiction
Pages: 386
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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three-stars

1975: Laura Quinn has spent her life on the remote and beautiful Inis Miol Mor – Whale Island– off the west coast of Ireland. After the death of her parents, and faced with the continuing reluctance of her lover, Martin, to marry her, she realizes she needs to leave the island for her life really to begin.

She accepts a job as a housekeeper with a wealthy couple on the mainland. But a year later, Laura is back, and this time she is not alone. She has at last found the love of her life: a baby son named Matthew. But what sort of life can an unmarried mother have on a remote Irish island in the 1970s? In this complex situation is revealed a picture of a tightly knit community where Laura inevitably comes under pressure to conform to the rules of society.

At times humorous and ultimately heart-breaking, Alison Jameson’s Little Beauty is a brilliant portrayal of love, motherhood and sacrifice that will mesmerize readers and linger long in the mind

Little Beauty is set in 1975 on a remote Island off the west coast of Ireland.  Laura Quinn, who was orphaned at a young (unspecified) age leads a fairly isolated, bleak life there.  She has a sort of partner, the not-so-lovely Martin, who is happy to make love to her but doesn’t want her to stay overnight in case she gets notions of planting her feet under his table.  I know where I’d plant my foot!  Martin with his sexist attitude drove me mad at the start of the book, I had to keep reminding myself to put it in context, this was 1975 Ireland.

Laura Quinn has spent her life on the remote and beautiful Inis Miol Mor – Whale Island– off the west coast of Ireland. After the death of her parents, and faced with the continuing reluctance of her lover, Martin, to marry her, she realizes she needs to leave the island for her life really to begin.

Laura is in her late 30s but I had to check back on that fact a few times, she reads more like someone in their early 20s.  To put this politely she is a bit odd, maybe not playing with the full deck of cards.  It is never fully explained in the book and I would like an explanation of why she is the way she is, why she has such strange outbursts.  She left school at 12 years old and is socially isolated and socially inept so this explains some of her odd ways but not all of them.

Laura leaves the island to work for a wealthy couple on the mainland but returns fairly quickly and she is not alone.  Fast forward a year; Laura now has a son and finally has someone to love and who loves her back unconditionally.  There are a few twists after this and I have to admit I got to like Martin a little better than I previously had.  A little, not a lot.  And the book took a direction that I wasn’t expecting and left me shell shocked.

The island folk are like a collective main character in Little Beauty, they are complex and difficult to figure out.  They at times shun Laura and at others are there for her.  As an outsider looking it, this is hard to understand however it does have a ring of truth about it.  Clannish, gossipy, judgemental, superstitious but still at other times present and willing to do whatever needs to be done.  They are a mass of contradictions and made for interesting reading.

The overall feel I got from this book was sadness, there was a lack of hope in every direction I looked.  What happened Laura’s son broke my heart and I have no idea if it was necessary or not as I don’t know what Laura’s problem (if any) really was.  The only joy in the book came from Laura’s love for her son and also from the love of dancing that her employers on the mainland have.  However there is humour in the book with its distinctively Irish sayings and twist of phrases that made me smile.

The author does an amazing job of evoking emotion, I read the last 20% of the book with a lump in my throat and a mist in my eyes.  I realised that even though I thought I hadn’t connected with the characters that I had, they had somehow wormed their way into my heart.  So I think this book is a slow build but it does sweep you along with it.

I thought you might like to see images of a setting similar to this book to help you imagine it.  There are loads of small islands off the coast of Ireland and they are totally unspoilt as you can see.

Overall, Little Beauty is a book I’m glad I read but not one I’ll be rereading.  As for recommending it, if you are ok with heavy feel and want to learn about Island life or just want to read about some characters who are unique and have a good story to tell, then this could be just the book for you.

three-stars

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