Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney:
To celebrate the launch of the new book by Emma Claire Sweeney I'm delighted to reveal my review of this delightful heart warming book ....
Oh wow! This book is just so much MORE than I was expecting. It’s hugely emotional with gentle threads of wry humour, the odd burst of unexpected hilarity and haunting scenes of great tenderness and harrowing moments of despair woven together to form a robust fabric of shimmering silken beauty.
In Owl Song at Dawn, the author pulls NO punches. This is a work of fiction with its feet undoubtedly based firmly on experience. It’s about the lives of a collection of people with disabilities getting on with their lives yet often facing prejudice at every turn. Parts made me weep with frustration and others made me roar with injustice, yet some particularly those set in the quite recent past made me feel a creeping unease and shame.
The main protagonist is Maeve, now in her 80’s she still works hard in the seaside resort of Morecambe running a traditional sea-side Bed and breakfast to which she has devoted most of her adult life.
Maeve was born a twin, her sister Edie the pivot around which Maeve’s life turned, as youngsters they were inseparable. Edie was the chalk to Maeve’s cheese and that Maeve loved her twin with an all consuming devotion is never in any doubt. Edie is quite severely disabled, she can talk but not fully communicate with anyone apart from her beloved twin who has an almost psychic empathy with her, sometimes she just quotes poetry which Maeve has read to her, she loves to sing and play her mouth organ (or Gob-tin) and against all advice from the medical profession (who speak cruelly and bluntly about their mentally subnormal daughter) the girls parents decide not to have Edie institutionalised but bring her up at home alongside her twin. Despite her obvious adoration and devotion to her sibling this undoubtedly causes some restraints to Maeves social life and we see her relationships flounder.
Now, many years after the death of Edie, Maeve is elderly, cantankerous and steeped in loneliness, filling her life with folk who need her as much as once Edie did. We are introduced to a budding romance between 2 wonderful disabled characters Steph and Len and when suddenly a face from Maeve’s past turns up unexpectedly, her surprise and confusion is apparent.
The characters are all wonderfully larger than life and yet extremely authentic and sincere. From Dot the terminally ill cancer sufferer to Ukrainian hotel Manager Zenka with her tottering high heels, lycra mini skirts and heart of pure gold. There are new neighbours to contend with and regular hotel guests – a barber shop band called, of all things – Aspy fella A capella, every single member with Aspergers, autism or Downs syndrome.
Oh hell, this is one book I’m going to have to stop waffling on about and just firmly INSIST you get hold of a copy and READ it right now … It’s blown my mind – why should you get away with yours intact?
Whether you’ve had any contact with people with learning difficulties and disabilities or not, I think you’ll just love the extraordinary characters in this wonderful, uplifting yet unbearably sad book.
I have spent several weeks doing volunteer work in a holiday respite centre for disabled guests and their carers and the parallels with Sea View Lodge made me feel instantly at home in this genteelly crumbling, once majestic sea side holiday abode.
This is a superb summer read with a uniqueness and harmony all it’s own. Just make sure you’ve got your sunglasses at hand to hide those red rimmed eyes behind and celebrate being different with the wonderful residents of Sea View lodge.
'Fresh, poignant and unlike anything else' -- Jill Dawson, Whitbread and Orange Prize-shortlisted author
'Tender and unflinching, a beautifully observed novel.' -- Carys Bray, Costa Prize-shortlisted author
'It crept under my skin and will stay there for a long time' -- Emma Henderson, Orange Prize-shortlisted author
'Amazing: fierce, intelligent, compassionate and deeply moving' -- Edward Hogan, Desmond Elliot Prize-winning author
Funny, heartbreaking and truly remarkable' -- Susan Barker, New York Times bestselling author
Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with.
Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe's 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.
Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve's crow, the dawn to Maeve's dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.
If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.