Green Giants – Irish Author Spotlight: Going Back by Rachael English

July 23, 2014 Book review, Green Giants 6 ★★★★★

Green Giants is my feature where I share some of my favourite books by Irish Authors.   I’m passionate about Irish Authors, there is a great and exciting mix of books to choose from, hopefully you will find something new to try.  Today it’s Rachael English (who is English but living in Ireland and so totally counts for Green Giant status!) whose debut novel impressed the socks off me.

green giants


Forget about I could have danced all night, when it comes to this book, I could have read all night! It’s effervescent, full of life and I was glued to it from beginning to end. It’s such a cliché to say the book was unputdownable but that is exactly what it was. I just read and read and read and allowed the nostalgic vibes from the late 1980s sweep me up and carry me back to far more innocent times.

Green Giants – Irish Author Spotlight: Going Back by Rachael EnglishGoing Back by Rachael English
Published by Orion Publishing Group on 22nd May 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Emotions & Feelings, Romance, Social Issues, Womens Fiction
Pages: 344
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from Author
Buy on Amazon

How do you know where you belong?

In June 1988, Elizabeth Kelly's parents think she belongs at home in Ireland. Her boyfriend is certain of it. Unwilling to settle down just yet, she decides to spend the summer in Boston with her college friends.

The next four months change all of their lives. Elizabeth surprises herself by falling for Danny Esposito, a restless charmer with a troublesome family.

Almost a quarter of a century later, Ireland is once again gripped by recession. A new generation looks to America, awakening memories of a golden summer for their parents. When a crisis occurs, Elizabeth returns to Boston where she is drawn back into the life she once lived. But will she be able to reconcile the dreams of her twenty-year-old self with the woman she has become?

GOING BACK is a story of family, friendships and love, of difficult decisions and lifelong consequences.

The First Line of Going Back by Rachael English:

 Jenny O’Hara threaded her way along Washington Street, past Macy’s, around the fast food carts and through the clusters of tourists at the Famine Memorial.

 My Thoughts on Going Back by Rachael English:

The book is written in two different time periods; the first is 2011 and the other is 1988. Back in the late 80s, Elizabeth who has just finished college has gone to Boston on a J1 student visa to work for 6 months. I started college in 1988 and I just clicked immediately with the setting and the time period. The music references, the clothes, the ridiculously big hair; been there, done that! I didn’t do the J1 visa thing but tonnes of my friends did and I loved the insight I got into their time there.

The later day setting focuses on Elizabeth twenty three years later and her daughter Jenny who is repeating her experience of living in Boston for the summer.  Jenny is a lot more self assured and worldly than her mother and that just felt so authentic. Younger people today just seem so much more ‘with it’ than myself and my friends ever were.

I found myself connecting with Elizabeth on so many levels. Apart from the fact that she is roughly the same age as me, I just saw a lot of myself in her. She is shy but feisty when she needs to be, she is a rule keeper but then smashes all the rules into oblivion every now and again. And she is so insecure and awkward at times that I just flinched for my younger self who used to feel those exact same feelings of never quite measuring up to all her cooler friends.

In America she meets Danny and for once in her life, she is doing what she wants without submitting to the pressures of what is expected of her. What struck me about the book was how in the 80s, it was possible to do this. Going to America for the summer was total freedom. You didn’t have skype or mobiles to constantly text with or facebook or any of the social media we take for granted now. Your only contact with home was a quick phone call or a letter. So it was easy to switch off and to a certain extent forget about external demands from home and live in an alternate reality bubble.

And when it comes to romances; this is the way I like them.  Danny isn’t a glorified ‘bad boy’ or one of those ‘too good to be true’ guys that only exist in books.  Like Elizabeth, he is full of complicated layers and I felt I really got into his head during the book.  And no spoilers but there is a letter….a letter that caused me to add this goodreads status…

That letter! Noooo! That crunching you hear… my heart breaking into smithereens…..

The book also sheds a lot of light on Ireland’s economic plights and our reaction to them.  Over the course of the book, Ireland went from bust to boom and back to bust.  And the book reflects on the difference between the eighties recession and the current one.  Even though I have lived through both, this book made me take an outsider looking in point of view and it felt very enlightening.  There is a huge difference between the recessions and this book highlights that.  Never in a heavy way, just in a series of reflective observations that fits in really well with the more light hearted aspects of the book.

Apart from loving the plot and the characters; I was also a big fan of Rachael’s writing style. She is sharp and full of wit on one page and then thought-provoking and deep on another. The book is littered with Irish-isms and I’d love to see what a non Irish person would make of some of the more random sayings. I could hear most of them in my parents voice and they had me giggling with their no nonsense but full of nonsense wisdom.

Overall this is one of my favourite books of 2014 so far. For someone who reads as much as I do, I don’t say that lightly and I hope it conveys a little of how much I loved this book. The characters, the romantic but realistic love story, the setting and the tone of the book just resonated deep within me. Rachael English can weave a tightly crafted story and I can’t wait to read future books by her.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: five-stars


Who should read Going Back by Rachael English?

If you like contemporary women’s fiction that is full of nostalgia but not rose tinted, then I’d urge you to give this one a try. Or if you read a lot of contemporary YA/NA fiction; then this book about a group of college students in the 1980’s is a good book to mix it up a little with. And if you want a book that pours with Irish sayings and wit; read this! Fans of Maeve Binchy, Sheila O’Flanagan and Marian Keyes should also enjoy this one.

Thanks to Rachael for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  This book was already on my must-buy list so when Rachael sent me a copy I was over the moon.



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6 Responses to “Green Giants – Irish Author Spotlight: Going Back by Rachael English”

    • trish

      Me too Cleo! And it can lead to some really interesting character development too which is exactly what happened in this one.

  1. Candace

    This one sounds really excellent! I hadn’t heard of it before but it sounds like something that would really make me think.
    Also, I love you feature Irish authors (or authors living in Ireland). Excellent idea!

    Right now we (my daughter and I) are tentatively HOPING to come next summer. She has a castle she simply HAS to visit and I want to go to the Dublin Author Signing. Fingers crossed it works out!
    Candace recently posted…Young Adult Review: The Girl With the Windup Heart by Kady Cross

    • trish

      Thank Candace! I really enjoyed this one and think it would make an excellent read for a non Irish person as well.

      Re Dublin…that’s exciting, I hope it all pans out for you, I know how you love to travel 🙂 If it does, you must let me know and we can meet up at DAS! There is a Facebook Page for it that is being updated as authors confirm, you should join that so you get all the latest info on next years event.

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