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Before My Actual Heart Breaks by Tish Delaney

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Before My Actual Heart Breaks by Tish Delaney
UK Publication: October 2021
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not crying, you’re crying…

Synopsis from Goodreads: I’m not yours and you’re not mine. That’s what I say to his dreaming face as I watch the shadows of his dark eyelashes dance by the light of a Tilley lamp.

It’s not the first lie I’ve told myself.

When I was sixteen, I wanted to fly. I was going to take off like an angel from heaven and leave the muck and madness of Northern Ireland behind as I struck out across the west coast of Donegal heading straight for America.

Nothing but the Land of Happy Ever After would do for me.

It was him I blamed for clipping my wings.

I fashioned a cage out of self-pity then and slipped it over my head like a boned corset to hold myself together and to lock him out.

But hate cannot bind two people to each other for twenty-five years, no matter how many dark skies have to be weathered. Only love can do that.

It’s the first truth I’ve told myself.

My Thought’s: The synopsis above is made from non-consecutive quotes in the book itself and if that isn’t enough to convince you that this is a beautifully written story then I don’t know what I can say to change your mind..

The best way I can sum this book up is Gone With the Wind Northern Irish style. Here we replace the American civil war with The Troubles and Scarlet with Mary. Instead of a brash spoilt heroine we are given a modest girl from a poor (and largely uncaring) family whose one mistake at 16 defines the rest of her life including the fact that she is so blinded by what could have been that she fails to see what it is she actually has.

Mary (like Scarlet) is a tough character to like but that doesn’t mean I didn’t care for her I spent almost the whole novel telling her not to do that; to open her eyes; to stop being such a drama queen and the rest of it sympathising with her and realising how tough it must have been being her and living her life.

The atmosphere of sectarian Northern Ireland is really bought to life especially the fear that Mary doesn’t really feel until she becomes the mother of sons, that fear that your child could be caught up in circumstances beyond your control and that at any point you could lose them.

The violence of The Troubles is very much in the background but the author manages to relate events both in Northern Ireland and on the UK Mainland in a way that is not jarring with the narrative as a whole and that allows the reader to understand the world Mary is living in.

This would have been a 5 star book apart from 1 incidence near the end of the book which just didn’t sit right with the rest of the narrative, at least for me. If we removed this incidence this would be 5 stars for sure.

And just because I loved them so much here are a couple of my favourite quotes:

“A lot of good, strong tea is drunk over Northern Irish remains. The mourners are sorry for your trouble while they eye up the quantity and quality of the ham sandwiches flying round on the fine-china wheels of borrowed cake stands”

“We all have the same Christian God, hearts, lungs, spleens and animals to deal with. We just deal with them in separate churches, separate doctors’ surgeries and separate vets’ We’re told from the cradle that they’re land-robbing bastards; they’re told that we are vermin who don’t know when to stop breeding. They like marching about after bands playing ‘The Sash My Father Wore’ battered out on drums; we don’t march about so much since Bloody Sunday.”

“The local Orange order were having a practice march because they hadn’t quite got the hang of walking up and down with banners after two hundred and thirteen years and the whole town was on lockdown.”

“Auntie Eileen had refused to renounce the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Why would I give up the good stuff? She’d asked lighting a fag.”

“Protestant neighbours were as shook up as us as we set about getting in the first crop of hay together. It was heartbreaking that the extremists on both sides could cause such damage in our name. We had no control over the mad bombers, the murderers; we knew they would be impossible to stop – if three dead children couldn’t stop them, what would?”

“How could anything, anything, be worth parking a car loaded with explosives in a busy market town on fair day? Twenty-nine families of both creeds would be asking that question for the rest of their time.”

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys family sagas and anyone wanting to learn more about The Troubles. Just keep the Kleenex handy.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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