By JJ Grafton
Published June 2022
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of JJ Grafton. Her writing is gritty, honest, real, and sometimes humorous. She writes across genres with apparent ease, something I really wish I could do. Of her four novels published, she’s tackled Urban Suspense, Historical Fiction, and Cozy Mystery. This novel is another historical fiction offering, the sequel to Ashes on the Tongue. So while you can read this novel as a stand alone, I do recommend you read Ashes first because not only will it give you all the backstory, it’s a terrific read.
Here’s a quick synopsis: Both novels are set in Northern Ireland in the 1950s during the time of escalating IRA violence. At the beginning of this novel, Fen is in hiding after witnessing a disastrous raid by the IRA and the death of an innocent family by the Protestant B Specials. While she sympathizes with the IRA, her family is Protestant and she’s unsure exactly where her loyalties lie: with the people who raised her but then turned their backs on her, or with a united Ireland. No matter which way she turns, Fen seems to get more deeply embroiled in the conflict between the two factions. After setting a disastrous series of events in motion, Fen realizes her destiny lies in her own hands and if she wants peace, she’ll have to fight for it herself.
This is not a novel with a happily ever after or a nice, clean-cut ending. Because history isn’t like that. Our actions have consequences and that concept is brilliantly explored in this novel. The omni point of view shifts seamlessly from character to character, so the reader is right there as each decision is made and action taken, regardless of whether you liked it or not. This was not a peaceful period and it saw a lot of innocent people caught in the crossfire of sectarian violence. Nor was it simple – the chasm between ideals and family was huge. And where should one’s loyalty lie? Grafton tackled both the history and question of loyalties unflinchingly, delivering a novel that I couldn’t put down. Honestly, my only regret is that it took me so long to read it.
5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Until next time, thank you for visiting.