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13 July 2013

Review: 'Little Beauty' by Alison Jameson (2013)

A unforgettable story about one woman's struggle to do the best for her child.

1975: Laura Quinn has spent her life on the remote and beautiful Inis Miol Mor - Whale Island- off the west coast of Ireland. After the death of her parents, and faced with the continuing reluctance of her lover, Martin, to marry her, she realizes she needs to leave the island for her life really to begin.

She accepts a job as a housekeeper with a wealthy couple on the mainland. But a year later, Laura is back, and this time she is not alone. She has at last found the love of her life: a baby son named Matthew. But what sort of life can an unmarried mother have on a remote Irish island in the 1970s? In this complex situation is revealed a picture of a tightly knit community where Laura inevitably comes under pressure to conform to the rules of society.

I didn’t know anything about Alison Jameson or her 4th of July release, ‘Little Beauty’, before I received a review copy of the novel in my mailbox (thanks Transworld!). The book has a stunning cover; I really like the design of it, the sea, the sand, the flowers, the little cloud hanging in the air with the author’s name in it. It’s also a cover that fits the tale inside perfectly. I didn’t really know what kind of novel to expect after reading just the blurb, but I was quickly taken in by Laura and her story.

Laura Quinn has always lived on the Irish island Inis Miol Mor, also known as Whale Island, where she is considered a bit of an outcast. This mainly has to do with the fact that her mother committed suicide and that their house was built facing the sea, which is considered bad luck. Laura feels as if nothing on the island is making her happy, including her uncertain relationship with lighthouse keeper Martin, so she decides to take on a job as a housekeeper on the mainland. A year later, Laura is back on the island and she has found the light in her life in the form of a son named Matthew. Yet, Laura is a single mother, which is not accepted by the other inhabitants of the island, and it doesn’t take long before she finds herself struggling to hold onto that one bit of happiness in her life.

‘Little Beauty’ is not your typical chick lit novel, and certainly not a light read. Laura is a slightly odd character, but I warmed to her as the novel progressed. I also liked Martin (even though I went from like to dislike in continuing waves throughout the story), and I fell in love with Audrey (the woman for whom Laura starts working as a housekeeper) when she was introduced to the story. I loved her description, her clothes, the way she danced around the kitchen... However, as the story continued, my feelings for Audrey changed. I don’t want to give too much away, but those of you who have read or will read ‘Little Beauty’ will understand what I am talking about. What happens to Laura is heartbreaking, and it really influenced the way I looked at the characters and the story as a whole.

Alison James has a really particular own way of writing, which I had to get used to at the beginning. At times, I thought the story was a bit long-winded, but at the same time the descriptions and emotions were really well-written and realistic. ‘Little Beauty’ is quite an intense read and definitely a story that will linger in your mind afterwards. If you are looking for something a tad heaver than your average chick lit, something emotional and original, then I’d certainly recommend picking up a copy of this novel. Even though it was a slightly different read, I enjoyed ‘Little Beauty’ and I have a feeling Laura Quinn’s tale will stay with me for quite some time to come!


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