The blurb for Tony Connolly Brexit & Ireland promises the inside story of the Irish response to the outcome of the UK’s 2016 referendum on EU membership.
Connolly, Europe editor for Ireland’s public broadcaster RTE, kicks off with a description of events on the night of 23 June 2016. Drinks flow in a Brussels bar where UK officials await the referendum result. EU officials watching the results on Sky TV. Irish officials prepare to convene at Government buildings at 3 am. Farmers go to bed expecting ‘remain’ to prevail.
But ‘leave’ won and Connolly’s book describes what has happened since that night. It’s a highly readable and absorbing account covering developments up to autumn 2017.
Connolly is strong on the interactions between Irish politicians and civil servants and their European and British counterparts. While many of the key events described are familiar from Brexit news coverage, Connolly’s behind the scenes insights and commentary are fascinating.
Bringing Brexit to life
As well as covering politics and policy, Connolly brings Brexit to life by talking to business owners. There is a mushroom business owner nervously watching sterling on the night of June 23. There are farmers heading for bed thinking that ‘remain’ will prevail and waking to find ‘leave’ has won. Connolly looks in detail at dairy and beef farmers, a fishing business and various entrepreneurs. He outlines their reliance on the UK market and describes the interactions between businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The later sections of the book focus on the evolving debate about the post-Brexit border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — a debate still ongoing at the time of writing.
At 350-odd pages, Brexit & Ireland is a fast and absorbing read and an insightful overview of developments thus far.
Brexit & Ireland | The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tony Connolly is published by Penguin.
I really liked how In a Cottage in the Woods opened. Cass Green sets up the story in just a couple of pages.
She introduces a troubled heroine, Neve Carey and a suicidal woman called Isabelle. Neve meets Isabelle on a bridge and they have a brief conversation just before Isabelle jumps. Although brief, we learn a lot about Neve from this conversation. For one thing, she’s kind enough to stop and help a stranger. She’s also very hard on herself. She questions her own motivations, and thinks that she falls short. She’s someone who does the right thing when it matters, but she’s also troubled and unhappy. Within just a couple of pages, you get a really strong sense of who she is and why she does what she does.
Neve’s a very believable character. There’s a lot going wrong in her life — her relationship has broken up and she’s temporarily staying in sister’s house because she can’t afford to stay anywhere else. Her work is boring and she’s underpaid. Her financial insecurity and emotional unhappiness impact her relationships, stirring up conflict that isolates her from family and friends. This isolation is what makes her the perfect heroine for Cass Green.
Cottage in the Woods
Neve inherits Isabelle’s cottage in the woods when she has hit rock bottom — no home, no relationship, no money, no job. So she has no choice but to move in. The cottage is isolated and creepy, making it an excellent setting for Neve to face her demons. And not all of them are internal. Someone doesn’t want Neve in the cottage. The question is who? And why?
In a Cottage in the Woods is an entertaining page turner and a fast read. I enjoyed it. If you like the sound of it, you might also like The Woman Next Door.
Marian Keyes takes a wry look at midlife crises in The Break.
The Break by Marian Keyes is the story of how a husband’s midlife crises sparks personal growth in his wife.
Following the death of his father, Hugh decides he wants to find himself. He plans a 6 month break away from home and packs a backpack destined for South East Asia.
News of the proposed ‘break’ comes as shock to his wife, Amy. A PR executive, she has the skills to ‘manage’ perceptions of the break so she steals a march and announces it on social media. But it undermines her confidence even though she decides not stand in Hugh’s way.
Hugh says he’ll come home once the six months are up but Amy fears that he might not. And, even if he does return, who’s to say that things won’t change in the meantime, So, Amy’s anxious. And having to put on a brave face isn’t as easy as she makes it look.
Marian Keyes meanders a bit too much for my liking and it takes many pages before Hugh, the husband eventually leaves. Once he’s gone, the pace picks up as Amy learns to cope with her new situation.
This is a chatty novel with lots of online shopping and gossip — not unlike a night out with the girls!
Disclosure: I read an advance review copy via Netgalley.