Book review: Somewhere Inside of Happy

Anna McPartlinYet again, Irish author Anna McPartlin tackles difficult issues. Grief – as in the superb The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – dementia and homophobia. And there is laughter and tears. It is a thoughtful book with strongly drawn characters, Irish humour and a fair amount of ripe language. It is the story of Maisie Bean, a single mother who has fought bravely to escape a violent husband and raise her two children, Jeremy and Valerie. The story starts, on January 1, 1995, when Jeremy disappears.

Ever since his mother found the strength to leave her abusive husband, Jeremy has been the man of the family. He has been responsible, thoughtful, helpful, caring for his grandmother Bridie who suffers from dementia, keeping an eye on his younger sister Valerie. In doing so he has repressed who he is because he doesn’t really understand who he is, all he knows is that he is different.

Somewhere Inside of Happy is an examination of generalisations, assumptions and misunderstandings, how the crowd dynamic and a troublesome media can turn a whisper into fact. How a community looks the other way whilst a drug-addict father neglects his son and how gays are referred to as ‘queer’ and worse. The mirror held up to society is not a pretty one. It is a reminder to us all to be more respectful of others, to stop ourselves being unfair and condemnatory about things we do not understand. The setting is Ireland in the Nineties, not that long ago. The title of the book is actually a place within Jeremy, to where he retreats, curled up, when the outside world gets too much.

If I have one criticism, it is the Prologue set twenty years after the main story. It tells us so many things I would expect to discover through reading the book.

My favourite character? Bridie. She is drawn with such affection, a ‘game old bird’ dancing with her sixteen-year-old grandson.

Read more about Anna McPartlin’s other books at her website.
Read my review of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes.

If you like this, try these other novels set in Ireland:-
‘The Little Red Chairs’ by Edna O’Brien
‘Nora Webster’ by Colm Tóibín
‘Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power

‘Somewhere Inside of Happy’ by Anna McPartlin [UK: Black Swan] Buy here

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Love + ignorance: SOMEWHERE INSIDE OF HAPPY by @annamcpartlin http://wp.me/p5gEM4-21A #bookreview by @SandraDanby