Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Emma's Review: It Was Only Ever You by Kate Kerrigan

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Patrick Murphy has charm to burn and a singing voice to die for. Many people will recognise his talent. Many women will love him. Rose, the sweetheart he leaves behind in Ireland, can never forget him and will move heaven and earth to find him again, long after he has married another woman. Ava, the heiress with no self-confidence except on the dance floor, falls under his spell. And tough Sheila Klein, orphaned by the Holocaust and hungry for success as a music manager, she will be ruthless in her determination to unlock his extraordinary star quality.

But in the end, Patrick Murphy's heart belongs to only one of them. Which one will it be?

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I've read everything Kate Kerrigan has written and have enjoyed all of her books particularly The Lost Garden and more recently The Dress. With this new book It Was Only Ever You the author once again returns to America having so successfully used this as a setting in The Dress. This time the book opens with a brief prologue in New York in March 1941. A young girl Sheila only aged 14 has to come to terms with the fact that the truth has been kept hidden from her for some time and her stay with her German grandparents must now become permanent. 

Sheila feels all alone in a city of thousands and is determined she will be a big girl and achieve something in her life. I kept wondering throughout the entire story what bearing the prologue would have on the rest of the book. As normally when I read a prologue I often forget about it until the very end until it ties in ever so cleverly with the story as a whole. Here this wasn't the case at all I was expecting some big twist, some shocking reveal but it never came. I felt there was no need for the prologue at all as Sheila's background could have been explained in a few brief sentences when we first encounter her as an older woman working the club scene in New York as a manager. It really added nothing to the book and I felt the same with several of the characters in the story. The book overall was a real mish mash for me, parts were good others were not bad but they just didn't drive the story on.

The story properly begins in Mayo in 1958, Patrick Murphy is going with his friends for a swim on a hot summer's day when an encounter with a bull in a field leads him to meeting Rose Hopkins the daughter of the local doctor. From their first moments spent together they establish a connection but one that must be kept secret as the doctor's family view themselves as a different class to the rest of the villagers in the small town. Rose loves drawing and sketching and uses this as an excuse to sneak away during the summer afternoons so she can meet Patrick. It felt as if their love developed very quickly and there was no holding back between the pair, they couldn't get enough of each other's company. But if this was to be all plain sailing it wouldn't have made for much of a book and there were to be many twists and turns before an ending was reached. Many very unexpected but also I found many to be so frustrating and just not needed at all in the book. There was so much chopping and changing it became difficult to follow and made the book drag and I found it challenging to devote my whole attention 100% of the time and I reluctantly say that about any book. 

There were so many characters introduced once it becomes clear things in Ireland were not going to be kept secret and once things were out in the open the story moved to New York leaving Rose behind in Mayo. I found Rose to be quite foolish and someone who acted before even stopping to think. She wasn't at all mature or sensible and was led entirely by her heart. Normally I wouldn't mind that at all but in this case I felt she would have been best to let sleeping dogs lie.  As I have mentioned we are introduced to endless characters once we reach 1950's New York and the reader could see tentative connections between them all but really several could have been left out and were surplus to requirements and didn't in my mind bring much to the story. 

Ava Brogan works in the typing pool of her father's insurance company. Her mother Nessa wants a good match for her but Ava is viewed as plain and not attractive or interesting to men instead just rather tall and gangly. Ava herself loves visiting the dance halls and listening to the Irish showbands and various singers in the clubs while dancing the night away. She feels like she will never find love and the put downs she receives from her mother and the society women in general really annoyed me and I thought why on earth did they keep at Ava? Surely you want to build your daughter's courage up not knock her down repeatedly. Ava was clever and kind and I hoped she would find the independence she clearly longed for. Through gaining a new suit things begin to change for Ava and encountering Patrick turns everything upside down. Sheila crops up again too determined to fire the fuel of her ambition and make Patrick a star. 

Rose too makes herself known at the most inopportune of times yet she still didn't endear herself to me. All the characters seemed to fall in and out of love so quickly it was hard to keep up with all the goings on and by the end I wasn't that bothered who ended up with who or even with anyone at all. The fact we went back over scenes from different characters viewpoints which we had already read before only added to my frustrations. It made me only more muddled as to everything going on and led to the basic storyline getting lost amidst everything else going on.

One thing that was strong regarding this book was the setting of New York. There was incredible detail into the music scene at the time which was on the brink of so much change. It opened my eyes to the Irish abroad and even the seedy underbelly so rampant at the time as Sheila discovers to her detriment. Even the church plays a hand in things. I thought this book would be amazing instead it was only average for me and I say that with much reluctance as I always want to give every book the chance it deserves given the time and effort every author puts into their work. There was romance here but it didn't grab me by the heart and none of the characters especially endeared themselves to me with their actions. There is a good storyline waiting here to be found it just got lost in too much going on. 

Sadly It Was Only Ever You is not my favourite book by this author. If you are new to her work I recommend starting with some of her earlier books. I hope her next book will be more to my liking yet I am glad I gave this one try as Kate Kerrigan is an author whom I regularly enjoy reading her stories it's just unfortunate this one wasn't what I had hoped it to be.

Many thanks to Head of Zeus via NetGalley for my copy of It Was Only Ever You to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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