I first came across Anna McPartlin last year when I read her book The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, and I was thrilled to see she has another just out, Somewhere Inside of Happy.
I’ve got a sneak peek at the new release and, like Rabbit Hayes, it’s a cracker. McPartlin’s own complicated background really informs her work, which has just the right combination of humour, pathos and compassion to keep it absorbing and real.
My favourite thing about both of these books is that there are plenty of grey areas. Unlike a lot of what is called ‘commercial fiction’ McPartlin doesn’t have villains and heroes, or if she does, they go from one to the other in the space of a paragraph and back again. The characters are real and human, and their dilemmas are realistic. This isn’t literary fiction, it’s just really really great fiction for people who like human stories.
She’s a great creator of strong women and the protagonist here, Maisie Bean, is no exception. I quite like the way she draws gutsy Dub women, they’re not quite caricatures but they’re just… very Dublin.
Maisie’s a survivor; the story of her marriage is dark and absorbing from beginning to end, but despite her heroic survivor status, she’s not one dimensional. We meet Maisie about to give a speech, we don’t know where or when or to whom or about what, but on something very important.
Then we’re back to an ordinary day in her life, involving her two jobs, her two teenage children, her elderly mother who has dementia. It’s an ordinary day, but one that kicks off an extraordinarily turbulent period in all their lives.
The story is spun out beautifully, there’s a romantic subplot – more than one, in fact – and it builds to a page-turning denoument. What more could you want?
(Tissues. You could want tissues… you’ve been warned).
If you enjoy Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes, David Nicholls or Nick Hornby, this is a book for you.