Welcome to my stop on the Emmet and Me blog tour! Huge thanks to Random Things Tours for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Honno Press
Publication Date: 10/05/2021
Length: 292 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction | Historical Fiction
CW: child abuse
Summer 1966. Claire and her brothers are packed off to Granny Connemara when their mother runs away. Granny’s rural Irish cottage is very different to their Cardiff city home, the peaty air thick with unspoken secrets. With no sign of Uncle Jack picking them up at the end of the holidays, there is school to be survived.
Granny is formidable and the children unsettled by the conversations they’re excluded from. Will Mother ever return? Will they ever get home? Why does their father hate everything to do with Ireland?
The only light on Claire’s horizon is an out-of-bounds friendship… and it will change her life forever.
The focus of this novel is very much on the characters which I adored, especially because the characters were just so interesting. I always think that children are very difficult characters to get right and yet, Gethin portrayed them beautifully. From the sibling bickering to Claire learning about the world, from the children reluctantly adapting to their new lives to Emmet attempting to find ways to change his reality.
Although the friendship between Claire and Emmet is central to the novel, it took a few chapters before Claire met Emmet. At first I was just really eager to meet Emmet but as I started to get to know Claire and her brothers Will and Louis, as well as their home life I was immediately drawn into their story as a family as well as Claire’s friendship with Emmet. I really liked the fact that we got to spend time with the family in Wales and Ireland, as this was a great way of illustrating how this move and the change in their home impacted them in different ways. I liked the ‘Grandma’ character and that she wasn’t the stereotypical gentle Irish granny living in a cottage, she was very feisty. Despite being somewhat cold and standoffish to the children at first, I really appreciated the fact that when the children would have troubles with someone at school, she would listen to them and do what is best for them without pressing too hard for the details. I also really liked (uncle) Jack and could easily understand why the children were so attached to him, possibly more so over their own father.
My favourite character in the novel was Emmet, my heart immediately went out to him and I just wanted to scoop him up and protect him. I love how, as an adult, we can see things much more clearly behind the words that he says or behind his mannerisms that Claire missed as a child. However, it’s through Claire’s innocence and what isn’t said between herself and Emmet that we learn so much about what’s going on, which I thought was a lot more powerful and heartbreaking. It’s also through the experiences of school and Ireland that the children have that we also gain an insight into the childhood that their father and Jack had too. This mirroring of the subtle storyline of the mysterious event that haunts the adults in the novel is a nice addition to the story and gives a depth to the strained, familial relationship that some of them have.
The novel opens with an introduction from Claire, the adult who has written this book, which sets the tone nicely and I genuinely had to go and double check that this book was Gethin’s as it felt like such a real author’s note to have at the beginning of a book. Occasionally we would get snippets of narration from present-day Claire which were also nice touches as it gave it a feel of authenticity that this is a real story with real people instead of just characters. I think this pseudo-memoir approach to this book was a really interesting one, especially when it comes to the ending. Without spoiling anything the ending, or rather, the post-script, felt a little rushed and didn’t offer a whole lot of closure. It was nice to see a snapshot of Claire as an adult, but it would have been nice for the book to have been a little longer and for us to see Claire’s reaction to certain events which lead her to working in the law field, which she references throughout the novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and liked spending time with such well written characters and would definitely recommend that you spend time with them too! Although, make sure to have a couple of tissues on hand…!
About the Author
Sara Gethin grew up in Llanelli. She has a degree in Religion and Ethics in Western Thought and worked as a primary school teacher in Carmarthenshire and Berkshire. Writing as Wendy White, she has had four children’s books published, and the first of these won the Tir nan-Og Award in 2014. Her debut novel, Not Thomas, was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize and The Waverton Good Read Award. While west Wales is still home, Sara spends much of her time in Ireland. Emmet and Me is her second novel for adults.