Hungry for scandal, the villagers of Rathmichael congregate in the grand Hatchwood House.
Before the night is over, the elusive Kate Millington will lie dead at the bottom of the Hatchwood stairs – her death opening a disturbing window into the past for three women.
Alice, Kate’s daughter, is faced with her grief for a mother who was forever distant. As the circumstances of Kate’s death, and her state of mind, are drawn into question, Alice struggles to understand the appalling truth about her mother’s past.
In New York, a death bed secret brings Faith Cranston to Ireland, where news of a shocking accident in a rural community leads her to a distressing discovery.
Nancy Canning has only seen Kate from afar. Ashamed of her past, an overwhelming fear of human relationships drives Nancy. As the news of Kate’s death spreads through the village, she is forced to overcome her fear of connection, and come to terms with the fact that the shame she feels may not be hers alone.
Over the course of a harsh Irish winter, the women battle misogyny and impediment as they struggle to reveal the secrets about Kate’s past.
But will they ever be able to make peace with the devastating truth they’re about to uncover?
Antoinette’s dream in life is to be paid to read books but as a close second, she’s happy to write them instead. She studied English and History at NUI Maynooth, followed by a career in public relations. Her debut novel, Home to Cavendish, was published by Poolbeg Press in 2019, the same year that Antoinette decided she’d had enough of 9 to 5 life and endless commuting.
Her decision to set up her own writing consultancy coincided neatly with the start of a global health pandemic but despite some setbacks, she has established herself as a successful business and ghost-writer. She recently moved to the Costa Blanca with her partner Ahmed. True to her Irish roots she spends most of her days convinced that it is going to start raining, any minute now.
The Secrets Left Behind, her second novel, is a multi-layered tale of the savage severing of maternal ties, a crumbling marriage built on conjecture, and the devastating impact on the next generation of women. It is set against the backdrop of the patriarchal regime once imposed by the Catholic Church in Ireland and spans the period from 1952 to 1981.
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My thoughts: this was really interesting, covering one of the saddest things that women in the recent past were subjected to – religious run homes for unwed mothers and forced adoption of their babies. Kate Millington is a deeply unhappy woman, carrying secrets and shame all her life. Even married she can’t shake the pain of her past and it wrecks her relationships.
After her death, her daughter starts to dig, at the same time two other women, Nancy and Faith, on opposite sides of the Atlantic are also asking questions about their pasts. Nancy was raised in an orphanage and Faith was adopted, but on her deathbed, Faith’s adored mother tells her a secret.
Between them, these women (and a few helpful men) investigate their pasts, the terrible cruelties done to young women and finally bring two very different mothers some peace in their deaths.
The story is sad and shocking, but ultimately redemptive for Alice, Nancy and Faith. Situations like Kate’s should never have happened and the terrible secrecy around it needs to be lifted. The Catholic Church doesn’t come out well in this book – it’s the priests and nuns who did these terrible things after all. Thankfully it doesn’t happen in modern Ireland, though probably in some developing countries something similar goes on but there are people living now who are affected by this and they need all the support and understanding that Faith finds completely absent.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.