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Heavenly Lilies Paperback – 28 May 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd (28 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783064145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783064144
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,883,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Alison Leonard has written a range of novels for children and young people, of which the best known are Tinker's Career and Kiss the Kremlin Goodbye. Her plays for BBC radio include Heretics, Small Clouds over Llangollen and the series After Eden. Alison has also written and broadcast on spirituality, and her collection of interviews with people on different spiritual journeys is published by Floris Books as Living in Godless Times. Her most recent novel is Flesh & Bronze, about a woman who modelled for the artist Degas. This is also published by Matador, as are her short stories under the title Thirteen Months to Christmas. Alison is married with two daughters and lives in Chester, England.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. C. Wherly on 28 May 2014
Format: Paperback
The concluding paragraph of a review in a recent 'Guardian' for Michael Cunningham's 'The Snow Queen' seemed strongly to apply to 'Heavenly Lilies': 'But what really strikes is Cunningham's remarkable control of tone, his ability to maintain a kind of muted ardency. This is a complicated, messy, peopled novel, and yet it has the slippery feel of a fable, an otherworldly quality...'

I couldn't have summed up 'Heavenly Lilies' better.

The protagonist, Sheila Miller, has been performing extended jury duty on a particularly horrific child-abuse case. She's sat - squirming - through the weeks of obscene evidence and has reached the stage of 'retiring' to the jury-room to figure out a verdict. But after a day of deliberation she goes home, packs a bag and runs away to Ireland. The trial she has been forced to sit through has gone on for months, and each day it has brought up memories of her own experiences at the hands of abusers. She just can't take any more of the agonies of the victims, the perversities of the perpetrators, and what it all sets off in her own memory bank.

Sheila travels to the very end of Ireland, to Achill in County Mayo. It's an islandl only in name, though. A bridge links Achill to the outside world. If the novel is anything to go by, many of the characters there might have been happier if the easy link to the mundane had been more challenging. But, on fabled Achill Sheila is for most of the novel, albeit with a change of name. Can the Atlantic bays, the wee cottages, the hills and cliffs of heather (all of which are conjured up with great care and a poet's eye) bring her some peace?

Hardly. I was reminded of 'The Quiet Man' - a film made at the other end of County Mayo, in Cong.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be from reading the back of the book, which gives a lot less away than the above description which is taken from the publisher's website. I thought it was going to be more focused on being a jury member in a high profile case, but in reality that only features at the very beginning and is the catalyst for the remainder of the book.

This book reminded me of The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, which was long listed for the Booker Prize and won the Guardian First Book Award, but was a book that I simply could not get on with. Yes, you can tell from this blog that I do like "chick-lit" but, being a lawyer, I am perfectly capable of enjoying "intellectual reads". However, I found it hard to read Heavenly Lilies, and not only because of the subject matter. It is definitely not a book you should try and read whilst you are tired. It requires your full concentration, and despite the fact I did not love it, it deserves your full attention too because it is exceptionally well crafted.

The constant switching of perspectives is disconcerting and I sometimes found it difficult to work out whose perspective I was reading about. However, Alison Leonard has done a truly amazing job of weaving together all the threads to create a story that does work exceptionally well. It certainly is not a quick read and it requires your full patience and attention. From the other reviews on Amazon, it is clear that for people who do enjoy this type of book, this will be up there with the best.

Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Format: Paperback
This is a really gripping book. A mix of whodunnit, adventure, romance, travel and introspection, with some magical elements, beautiful descriptive passages and strong and varied characters.

It is also deeply disturbing. Alison Leonard is tackling challenging issues about child abuse, and I wondered early in the book whether I really wanted to continue with it. The main protagonist was struggling with strong emotions that were raised by a child abuse case on which she was sitting as a juror, and these were so brilliantly and sensitively written about that the confusion and disturbance were really well conveyed. Scar, dark stuff. However as the action got under way the book quickly became a real page-turner. New landscapes, characters and relationships emerged , far from the English courtroom in romantic and mysterious Western Ireland, and gradually understanding and emotions fell back into their right place.

It's an important book as it seeks to portray truths which are little spoken about, through the powerful medium of fiction. And it's also a very good read. Read it. Think about it. Talk about it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel tackles the harrowing subject of child abuse, and this inevitably makes it a disturbing read at times. Sheila, a jury member in a child abuse trial, is overwhelmed by her own memories of abuse, and flees to rural Ireland to hide away and recover. But she finds there is no escape, and is forced to confront both the past and what she uncovers in the present. Many aspects lighten the story. There's a dog. There's a love story. There's the beautiful location - described with delicate precision. And there is Sheila's 20-year-old son, Jack, charming and good-hearted, who follows her to her hideaway and finds himself - for a while, at least - quite out of his depth when he falls for a damaged local girl.

Despite its complex structure and interlocking narratives, this story reads easily, and I became completely involved with the characters.
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