Told in two time-lines over forty years apart.
Over forty years ago:
This lovely story begins with two sisters from rural Ireland. On the cusp of adulthood, they travel together to Dublin where one sister will attend Trinity College’s prestigious College of Music, and the other sister will attend secretarial school. Tess Cuffe, the more passionate and vibrant of the two, is a singer. Nancy is more demure and wants the traditional life of husband and children, preferably back in Ballycove, the small Irish village she grew up in. Full of hopeful ambition and joie de vivre, the sisters embark on a new life in the city.
Just a short time after they move into their Dublin basement flat, Tess falls in love with Douglas Buckley. This will profoundly change her life forever.
“It was a love that cost too much in the end.”
Amanda and Richard King live at 4 Swift Square, Dublin. This is a prestigious address as befits the ambitious banker that Richard is. They have two teenage children. They bought the Georgian house years ago and have since totally remodeled it to the show-home condition it is today. There has only ever been one drawback… when they bought the house it had a sitting tenant in the basement flat. A tenant who will not be moved through bribery or any other means. Her name is Tess Cuffe and she is now sixty-six years of age.
Bitter, regretful, and lonelier than she ever could have imagined, Tess Cuffe hasn’t one friend to call her own. Still working, she temps at various offices around the city of Dublin. When a neighbour’s cat gets under her feet, she had a fall which broke her wrist. This event will begin what is a drastic turnabout to Tess’s lot in life. For starters, she becomes friends with the doctor who treats her injury, as well as the King’s teenage daughter Robyn, AND, at first reluctantly, she takes in the troublesome cat which she names Matt.
“Amanda had signed up for happy ever after
and suddenly it was being snatched from her.”
Forty-six year old Amanda King is lonely also. Her husband is distant and constantly critical. He works longer and longer hours. Her children are uncommunicative. Her female ‘friends’ are not really friends, rather they are catty, duplicitous socialites. She turns to high carb foods for comfort and gains weight. When her ‘perfect’ life turns sour, Amanda takes stock of her miserable situation and finds herself wondering just where is “the girl she used to know“…
A prime example of ‘women’s fiction’, “The girl I used to know” was a joy to read. Just the tonic a reader craves after a reading slump, or, as a genre palate cleanser. The strong characterization makes you form a bond with the strong and resilient women at its core.
The novel explores the themes of loneliness, betrayal, second chances, and, most importantly, female friendship. The overriding message of the book is summed up in the following quote:
“It’s never too late to be happy.”
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Aria (a digital imprint of Head of Zeus) via NetGalley. I chose to review it because I thoroughly enjoyed another of her novels.
Faith Hogan gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
Faith Hogan was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers. Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin.
Faith Hogan was born in Ireland and still lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children, and an overweight cat.