Monday 10 December 2018

Rookie and the veteran tackle female anguish

  • Fiction: The Year That Changed Everything, Cathy Kelly, Orion Books €12.99
  • Behind a Closed Door, Adele O'Neill, Head of Zeus, €14.99
Author Cathy Kelly. Photo: David Conachy
Author Cathy Kelly. Photo: David Conachy

Margaret Carragher

Since the launch of her debut Woman to Woman in 1997 veteran author Cathy Kelly has sold millions of copies worldwide. However it wasn't until she'd published her third novel that she gave up her day job as a journalist to write fiction full time.

By contrast, before she'd even had a word published, rookie author Adele O'Neill sold her successful Montessori business in order to concentrate on writing. Happily the gamble paid off and following her first crime novel Brothers & Sisters last year O'Neill is back with an equally gripping sequel.

Set between Dublin and Kilkenny, Behind a Closed Door opens in the consulting rooms of a psychotherapist where 33-year old Jill Ryan is displaying all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Having left a violent marriage, she is now reliving the abuse in nightmares that are growing increasingly vivid. Jill realises that in order to move forward she must first deal with the demons of her past.

From here the narrative rewinds to Kilkenny circa 2016 where, following a particularly brutal assault at the hands of her husband Mike, Heather Martin proceeds to put a brave face on it and carry on as before; with no one to fight her corner it seems the only option.

En route to visit her Alzheimer's-stricken father Heather bumps into Detective Tony Kelly, a colleague of Mike's. Spotting Heather's bruises and knowing her husband's form Kelly reckons that Mike is responsible. Likewise Martha, a nurse in the home where Heather's father resides, doesn't buy Heather's excuses to explain away her injuries. Meanwhile, having been taken to task for using excessive force in the line of duty, Mike Martin is seething even before he discovers that Heather has flouted his orders by leaving their apartment with bruises; there follows another savage attack when she arrives home.

However this time Heather has had enough. The realisation that she's pregnant has given her the impetus she needs to break free. Knowing that her husband would sooner kill her than allow her to leave, Heather plots her escape, before slipping out to visit her father. But Mike discovers his wife's plan and sets out to teach her a lesson she will never forget.

In this riveting tale O'Neill explores the complex and insidious nature of domestic abuse and its effect on both victim and perpetrator.

By contrast, Cathy Kelly's latest novel opens in the Dublin home of glamorous former model Callie Reynolds whose fiftieth birthday party is getting under way. Two hundred guests mingle in the embassy belt mansion, jewel in the crown of Callie's property magnate husband Jason. Upstairs, the couple's 14-year-old daughter Poppy is watching movies with her friends. Then out of the blue, the Fraud Squad arrives with an arrest warrant for Callie's husband. But Jason Reynolds has disappeared...

Elsewhere in Dublin Sam Kennedy's fortieth birthday heralds a happy arrival; after many heartbreaking years of failed fertility treatment she and her husband Ted are finally about to become parents. With a loving spouse, a supportive sister and father and a rewarding career, Sam knows only too well how lucky she is.

But as she pushes her baby daughter into the world Sam is seized by fear, panic and an overwhelming sense of inadequacy; having grown up with a cold and emotionally distant mother, how will she know how to lovingly parent her child?

Meanwhile, in the ballroom of a swish Dublin hotel things are looking up for Ginger Reilly, chief bridesmaid at the wedding of her best friend Liza. It's Ginger's thirtieth birthday and she's being swept off her sturdy size eights by Stephen, cousin of the bride and an absolute hunk. As Stephen openly admires her billowing cleavage and runs his hands over her ample bottom Ginger fantasises about the night ahead.

Then she overhears her supposed best friend bitching about her weight, dress sense and desperation for a man. Mortified, Ginger slinks home alone, wishing her life could be totally different.

Kelly proceeds to document the three women's lives over 12 months following the seismic events of their respective birthdays, while tackling issues such as infidelity, postnatal depression and loneliness.

Though very different in style and subject matter, both these novels display their authors' remarkable ability to get under the skin of the characters they portray in page-turning prose.


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