Sheila O'Flanagan has been a favourite author of mine for quite some time now and 'Yours, Faithfully' is the latest in a long line of her novels. She is an Irish writer and all her contemporary novels are based around Dublin and this always seems to provide an interesting backdrop to the tales she tells.
At the beginning of 'Yours, Faithfully' we meet Iona Brannon. She has been happily married to her husband Frank, who she wed in the Carribean, for the last five years. They are desperately trying for a baby to make their family complete - although unfortunately Iona has just discovered that she is not pregnant this month. Iona and Frank have a very strong idyllic marriage even though his business takes him away such a lot.
In the next chapter we meet Sally who has been happily married to her husband for at least twenty years and they have a teenaged daughter, Jenna. Much to her amazement, Sally has discovered that she is expected a baby and has quite ambiguous feelings about this - and especially about how she is going to tell her husband - Frank who is away on business at the moment. Are you thinking what I was thinking at this stage in the book?
Yes, ten out of ten if you were thinking that both husbands are indeed the same man. For some explicable reason Frank has married both women, virtually twenty years apart, and has been managing to maintain a dual existance for the last five years with neither 'wife' suspecting a thing! And of course the plan was to continue with this double life for as long as he could - apart from the fact that fate intervenes and due to a freak accident Frank ends up in hospital in a coma.
And it is there at the hospital. virtually across Frank's bed that the two women meet and discover the existence of the other. At first there is open hostility and animosity but as Frank continues in his coma, the two women get to know each other and gradually form a strong bond. As they do this, they learn a lot, not only about each other, but also about themselves.
There is a third woman in the story - a local Garda detective called Siobhan Farrell. She investigates the case, and as it is bigamy, Frank could be looking at a hefty jail sentence when he recovers. Through her investigations though she befriends both women and is quite instrumental in helping them come to terms with what has happened.
I an not going to say too much more about the actual story so as not to spoil the plot. I did find it a very gripping and absorbing read though, and apart from the first 'surprise' - that Frank was married to both women which I felt was signalled a mile off - it was full of unexpected turns and surprises.
All three of the main women characters were really strong and well developed and I enjoyed the way they moved from open hostilities to an uneasy truce to a firm friendship. It was interesting the way the reader was privy to their thoughts particularly about each other. It is apparent from quite early on that the two 'wives' are extremely different in almost every way, and neither can understand why their Frank was attracted to the other. I also sympathised greatly with Iona who had to come to terms with the fact that Sally is carrying Frank's baby which she so dearly wishes could be hers. Siobhan is also a very likeable character, and while she investigates the case, she is also going through her own emotional crisis - which maybe makes her more sympathetic to the plight of Iona and Sally.
Sally's teenaged daughter Jenna is also an interesting diversion. She is very troubled by all that happens and does what all teenagers do so well - rebels! The one character who we don't really meet at all is Frank, although every so often the storyline is interspersed with his attempts at regaining conciousness and trying to recall who he is and what he has done. Through this the reader starts to gain an understanding as to why Frank might have behaved in the way he did - and surprisingly you even start feeling a bit sorry for him.
I really liked all the characters and started to care about what would happen to them. All the way through I was thinking how on earth could all this turn out. It was such a tangled web that at least one if not all was going to end up hurt. As I said before I'm not going to say what did happen but I will tell you, that for me at least the last fifty pages or so were a real emotional rollercoaster. I was actually reading the book in quite a public place and was really embarrassed to discover tears trickling down my face - so be warned - it's best to finish off this book at home in the privacy of your own company with a box of tissues nearby.
So overall I felt this was a really good read. It is 600 pages long but I didn't think that it lost its way or even meandered at all. And even after all those pages I was quite sorry when I had finished the book and it was all over!
So if you are interested enough to want to read it 'Faithfully, Yours' is published by Hodder Headline and my paperback version has a RRP of £6.99. However I bought mine from Tesco for only £3.73 - just a few aisles down from the tissues!
A wonderfully gripping, dramatic, touching and warm novel for the women's fiction market from the expert hand of a bestselling author who just gets better and better. Iona's not pregnant. It's a blow, but she knows that when husband Frank gets home he'll reassure her that their dream of a family together will come true. Sally, on the other hand, has just discovered that she's very much pregnant. Which is quite a surprise, with her only child now a seventeen-year-old. And Sally's not sure how her husband's going to feel about it, when he gets home. Except Frank's not going to get home - to either of his wives. Frank's bigamy of several years is about to be exposed, because Frank was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now his wives are going to meet in the hospital where he lies in a coma.