Books: Memories, love and heartbreak
Fiction: Ann Dunne: Still You, Claire Allen, Poolbeg, tpbk, 352 pages, €16.99
Claire Allen has written a string of bestsellers, including It's Got to be Perfect. Her life-affirming novels deal with relationships, renewal and growth, with a keen sense of humour.
The latest book is more personal. Since her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's more than 10 years ago, Allen has seen the devastation it has caused to the family. But rather than dwelling on the heartbreak, the author wants to remember the full lives people lead before they are taken away by this harrowing illness. Still You does just that.
It follows the story of two women. Aine, a spritely old lady who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and feeling frightened, and Georgina, who has just been engaged as her carer by Aine's wealthy nephew, Jonathan. The women become friends as Georgina tries to help Aine tease out her memories.
Aine's early life is revealed, taking us back to 1964 when her glamorous sister Charlotte returns for the summer from her villa in Italy with her two children and adoring husband. But a tragedy occurs and Aine puts the needs of others before her own chance of happiness.
Two similar love stories are intertwined in this novel but with very different outcomes.
Georgina's marriage to her childhood sweetheart is on the rocks and she is left to manage two sulky teenage daughters. She gets off to a bad start with Jonathan but as they devote themselves to caring for Aine, they become close. However, a distressing event takes place which threatens their happiness and history seems to be repeating itself.
Allen draws it all together to bring a touching and uplifting ending, which would have made her grandmother proud and is sure to please her many fans.