My enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Emmet and Me by Sara Gethin and to publishers Honno for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that (rather inadequate) review today.
Published by Honno on 20th May 2021, Emmet and Me is available for purchase here.
Emmet and Me
Summer 1966: When her father comes home with lipstick on his collar, ten-year-old Claire’s life is turned upside down. Her furious mother leaves the family and heads to London, and Claire and her brothers are packed off to Ireland, to their reclusive grandmother at her tiny cottage on the beautifully bleak coast of Connemara. A misfit among her new classmates, Claire finds it hard to make friends until she happens across a boy her own age from the school next door. He lives at the local orphanage, a notoriously harsh place. Amidst half-truths, lies and haunting family secrets, Claire forms a forbidden friendship with Emmet – a bond that will change both their lives forever.
My Review of Emmet and Me
Claire’s life is about to change.
I have absolutely no idea how I am going to write a coherent review of Sara Gethin’s Emmet and Me because I lack the vocabulary to convey its power, its beauty and its importance. I found it completely outstanding.
Sara Gethin’s eloquent writing is enormously affecting. The reality of the world around Claire that she doesn’t fully comprehend is all the more realistic, more horrifying and more entrancing for the reader because we view it through Claire’s eyes. Sara Gethin manages to convert her adult meaning through a totally convincing child’s point of view in Claire’s first person narrative so that I felt I was as close to Claire as any of the characters in the the book become.
And what characters the others are too, driving the narrative of Emmet and Me in a way that is emotionally mesmerising and completely heart-breaking. Each person is perfectly depicted, generating an overwhelming sensation and feeling of connection in the reader. Claire’s Grandma is especially complex, relatable and believable, her taciturn nature masking suffering that is so realistically portrayed. I loved Emmet unreservedly and his life and story broke my heart, not least because it is predicated on real experiences. Oh my goodness, Emmet is powerfully wrought so that I’ll be thinking about him for years to come. I was desperately affected by the gradual uncovering of his personality and his circumstance and in fact had to stop reading at one point to regain my composure because Sara Gethin conveys him so brutally and so tenderly that I was quite undone by her words. I loathed some of the minor characters and wished I could have climbed into the book to treat them as they were treating others. Indeed, Emmet and Me brought out terrifyingly strong feelings of malevolence and violence, as well as love, in me. This is an incredibly powerful book.
Equally, Claire’s family dynamics, their experiences and the outcomes of their actions, and of the actions of those around them, will resonate with me for a very long time. In Emmet and Me Sara Gethin explores what makes us who we are, how our early lives shape and affect us years later and how our love, our relationships, our fears, our guilt and our loyalties can be manipulated and changed in ways far beyond our control. Emmet and Me isn’t just wonderful, wonderful story-telling, it’s a love song to humanity, a cry aloud for the oppressed and the shunned, and an insight into a world many of us will, thankfully, never experience.
I’m aware that I haven’t really reviewed Emmet and Me in any coherent way. I don’t want to spoil the narrative for others by saying too much about the plot based on half-truths and rumour, leading into a stark clarity that stuns, for fear of spoiling the read for others. What I can say is that Emmet and Me is one of the most moving, most profound and most memorable books I’ve ever read. It’s going straight on my books of the year list. Emmet and Me is exceptional, so shout it from the roof tops. I’m going to tell everyone I know to read it immediately.
About Sara Gethin
Sara Gethin grew up in Llanelli. She has a degree in Religion and Ethics in Western Thought and worked as a primary school teacher in Carmarthenshire and Berkshire. Writing as Wendy White, she has had four children’s books published, and the first of these won the Tir nan-Og Award in 2014. Her debut novel, Not Thomas, was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize and The Waverton Good Read Award. While west Wales is still home, Sara spends much of her time in Ireland. Emmet and Me is her second novel for adults.
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