Friday 23 February 2018

Book review: Where the love gets in

Tara Heavey (Penguin Ireland, €13.99)

Tara Heavey's new novel calls several others to mind -- Jennifer Johnston's The Christmas Tree, Anita Shreve's The Weight of Water and Anna McPartlin's Apart From The Crowd. However, Heavey has a unique voice which excels itself in this thoughtful story of a love triangle, in which the star is a female dolphin.

The dolphin turns up one day in a sleepy, hideaway harbour in Co Clare, where it has a profound effect on the lives of everyone it touches.

First to spot the dolphin, while out surfing with his teenage son, is Aidan, a taciturn fisherman who christens it Star.

As Star begins attracting tourists and locals alike, Aidan decides to convert his trawler to a dolphin tours boat but before he gets a chance to do the conversion, he gets his first customer, the well-known actress Sarah Dillon and her small daughter, Maia.

Single mother, Sarah, who has left the limelight in the hope that Star can help with Maia's autism, persuades Aidan to take them out in his dinghy.

Out on the water, Star begins to work her magic on Maia, but something passes between Aidan and Sarah too.

Aidan's wife, Fiona, originally from Dublin, is the local GP and the practical one in the relationship.

With their son and daughter almost grown, she and Aidan dread the impending empty nest.

Having never quite fitted into the small community that they live in, Fiona is delighted with the opportunity to make a new friend, especially a famous one.

She welcomes Sarah into their lives, unaware of the growing passion between her husband and the actress. The story unfolds over the course of one hot summer amid suffocating village gossip and opprobrium, as Aidan and Sarah try to deny their feelings, until heartbreaking circumstances throw all the protagonists into turmoil, forcing decisions that nobody wants to make.

There is an elegance to the writing, and Heavey expertly brings a lightness of touch and empathy to characters, mired in a predicament of overpowering sadness. Issues of duty and love, grief and redemption are skilfully explored by the author.

Tara Heavey has written several other novels, which were all well-received, but this haunting and moving story should finally establish her reputation in contemporary popular Irish fiction.

Irish Independent

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