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Femme bookend: Class-crossed love never fails

Somers sisters Pearl, Opal and Ruby are the children of the gate lodge in Pearl by Deirdre Purcell (Hachette Ireland).

It's 1923 in this 12th novel by the actress and journalist. Whiskey-sodden bully Lord Areton forces his delicate son to kill the horse he loves, after a riding accident kills the trio's little brother Willie. As if that isn't enough, the IRA burn the Big House, and the girls' father loses his job.

Purcell is writing from her own family history -- her granddad was the chauffeur at Durrow Castle, back in the day.

Three voices twine through this novel: passionate Pearl, who becomes a writer; Opal, who marries well and leaves poverty behind, and their cousin Catherine, living the 1970s student life. At the heart is a class-crossed love denied for 50 years -- what more could you ask for?

The Chicklit

The brilliantly funny The Real Rebecca by Dublin freelancer Anna Carey (O'Brien Press) has to be the start of a new Irish genre -- teen chicklit.

Bex Rafferty is happy, until a new English teacher turns up. Mrs Harrington is Bex's writer mum's biggest fan, and her speciality is embarrassment. Worse, Ma Rafferty seems to have a writer's block. Normally she chats about the stories she's writing, but she's clammed up. And she's taken to buying teenage magazines and brooding over them.

But Bex has more to think about: the dishy newspaper boy who calls for the money every Friday, and seems, mm hmm, to like talking to her.

The Big Non-Fiction

Conor Grennan -- son of Dublin poet Eamon Grennan -- went to Nepal to volunteer in an orphanage. Or so he thought.

But in Little Princes (HarperCollins), Conor describes how he discovered that the kids in his care weren't orphans at all -- they were children who had been trafficked, by evil people who fooled their trusting parents.

So he took to the roads and paths of Nepal, making his way to remote villages to find the parents, and sometimes to rescue children from new exploitation. On the way, he had to battle political corruption, a deadly civil war and suspicion.

Conor Grennan shows what one person can do, if he follows his conscience and his love. By the end of this inspiring book, he has not only reunited many of the children with the parents they thought they had lost -- he has found his own love, young lawyer Liz Flanagan. Conor and Liz founded Next Generation Nepal to help trafficked children find their parents.