Don’t Mention Her

The best book I have read on grief and how it affects a family. Extraordinary, beautifully written, each of the characters so well drawn that they feel alive and familiar. The connections between them all are woven together in a way that in the end heals, and surprises. Quite wonderful.” Sue Finch

Don’t Mention Her is an intelligent look at the joy and hardships involved in breaking free of the institutions that might otherwise determine our lives, and how in the end, we find the families we really need.” Sarah Salway.

A story of motherhood and the limitations of love.

Claire, five-year-old daughter of Irish doctors, Connie and Liam, dies suddenly in 1963. The novel follows the devastation in the family – consequences that reverberate over the next fifty years. There’s the shock as Connie deserts Liam and their children and the mystery of the pact she makes with Anne, a Catholic nun. All who witnessed the child’s death, even the youngest, feel responsible and have their own stories as they leave home, reject religion, start careers.

Connie’s ambivalence about mothering seems to follow the next generation of women; one cousin, most deeply affected, tries to escape the past as she takes up work in Nigeria. Do her choices repeat Connie’s actions? And to whom does it fall to fulfil the pact Connie made fifty years before?

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“Don’t Mention Her is beautifully constructed and moves fluidly and absorbingly forward; the way the stones complete the circling back on themselves of the first and last scenes left me feeling very satisfied.

The story’s bound together by a number of issues that thread through the plot, and are looked at from different angles. I found this fascinating, thought-provoking, extremely readable. Not to mention the way the various developing relationships – their tensions, surprises – and the mysteries surrounding the garden, the stones, the figure of the nun, so on, and so on, drive the plot forward.

Personalities change, mature, cope or not, with what life throws at them – sometimes flawed, damaged, yet always individuals trying to be more fully themselves. And of course, above all, the gradual, slow reveal of the crucial events around the death of Claire. The characters are absorbingly complex – flawed, engaging – sometimes difficult, uncharming. I found myself moving keenly from one to the other, wanting to get to understand them, see what became of them.

Working out the ‘meaning’ of the stones nagged away at me very satisfyingly when I’d finished the novel!”

Mavis Gregson

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