Friday, 15 July 2016

Book Review: Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney

In addition to my Author Q&A with Emma Claire Sweeney on the Blog Tour for Owl Song at Dawn, here's my review of this fabulous book. Thank you to Lucy at Legend Press for the advanced reading copy.

Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe's 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve's crow, the dawn to Maeve's dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.
Owl Song at Dawn is a heart-rending, beautiful story, set in the present day, narrated by Maeve, as if she is talking to her 'severely subnormal' Edie. Maeve's life has been hard and lonely, and we learn gradually what brought her to be desperately trying to keep a run-down Sea View Lodge as a welcome holiday retreat for people with special needs.

Her tale is interspersed with glimpses of her younger life with her family, as they provide full time care and love for Edie along with the support of Maeve's friends, Vince and Frank. We learn of the battles with the authorities, who just want to institutionalise Edie. We've all heard of the old barbaric institutions; but we never really hear of the strength of the families determined to support their loved ones.

Vince is a gentle, caring character who obviously cares a great deal for both Edie and Maeve, but it is Frank who steals Maeve's heart. But life never happens as we plan it. Maeve has subsequently devoted her life to others, providing care, support and employment to two lovely young people with Down's Syndrome. These two, Len and Steph, are gorgeous, innocent characters, with a wicked sense of humour and a sensibility about them that many 'ordinary' folk would not afford them.

Maeve has dedicated her life to caring for others, to the detriment of her own quality of life. She has no surviving family of her own, and when a face from her past, Vince, turns up bringing sometimes painful memories, she is reluctant to let him back into her life

She's a great, feisty character, and the author has depicted this sometimes cantankerous octogenarian with a great deal of warmth and empathy.

It's a beautiful story, wonderfully written and well worthy of 5 stars.

You can buy Owl Song at Dawn here (other retailers are of course available!).

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