on 20 June 2013
Sheila O'Flanagan is one of the biggest names within the world of chick lit with about fifteen best-selling novels to her name. As a lover of anything chick lit, I also have a couple of her books somewhere on my shelves and every time I see a new title in a book shop, it attracts my attention. But somehow I've never actually managed to pick up one of Sheila O'Flanagan's works and sit down to read it, until now.
`Things We Never Say' focuses on two places in the world: Ireland and California. In Ireland, we find the Fitzpatrick family, which is devastated after the sudden death of patriarch Fred. His children Donald, Gareth and Suzanne are not necessarily devastated by the fact that their father is no longer amongst them; it is his will that has left them most distressed. The reason for this can be found at the other side of the world in San Francisco. Abbey Andersen has a good life: she loves her job as a nail technician, she has a nice apartment with her boyfriend whom she loves very much, and she has great friends to support her. However, when her boyfriend suddenly decides to leave her behind with several debts, Abbey's life appears to not be so great anymore. When out of the blue an Irish investigator shows up to tell Abbey her family history also isn't exactly what she thinks it is, Abbey is forced to make some decisions that will not only affect her, but also those around her.
I really liked the fact that this novel focused on two separate storylines that later on become entwined. From the first few pages I already adored Abbey; she's a lovely character and I was really rooting for her throughout the book. She really cares about the people around her and tries to do what's best for everyone, not just herself, in any kind of situation. Next to Abbey's storyline, there's the feuding Fitzpatrick family. It took me a longer time to get used to these characters. They all have their own secrets and are obsessed with money and particularly their father's will. I liked discovering and reading about Gareth, Donald, Suzanne and their families, even though most of them weren't really easily likeable characters. I thought it was great how Sheila O'Flanagan managed to bring all of these diverse characters with their own individual personalities together.
The novel starts with a fascinating chapter set half a century ago, during the Magdalene Laundry era. These Magdalene Laundries were mainly Catholic-run facilities in Ireland for `fallen' women, for example prostitutes or pregnant girls and women who had been left behind by their families. I thought this really added a historical layer to the novel which I personally loved. I have to say I thought the main part of the novel took up too many pages; the story seemed a bit slow at times, and I would have preferred fewer pages or perhaps a more extensive romantic storyline for Abbey. Overall, `Things We Never Say' is an intriguing and enjoyable novel all about family dynamics, which has convinced me to definitely pick up another Sheila O'Flanagan novel in the near future.
on 23 June 2013
Sheila O'Flanagan's latest novel takes a detailed look at the relationships between families and the secrets they can hide and how our families and particularly our parents influence our lives. The novel begins with three short flashbacks set in Tipperary fifty five years ago, Dublin ten years ago and San Francisco eight years ago. The three scenes are very different and introduce a varied and seemingly unrelated group of characters and my interest was piqued from the start trying to work out how the three strands fitted together.
I love how much Sheila O'Flanagan's books make me think and keep me wondering as I read. As the narrative moves to the present we meet Abbey Anderson again in San Francisco and the eclectic Fitzpatrick family based mainly in Dublin and gradually the picture builds of the linkages between them. Although I knew from the synopsis that Abbey discovers that she has family in Dublin that she needs to meet in order to understand her roots, I didn't expect the heartbreaking background to the story or the dramatic events that unfold when Abbey arrives in Ireland.
Sheila is one of my `go to' authors when I want a sensitive, thought provoking and believable read that really gets to the essence of people's emotions and Things We Never Say certainly does that! This isn't a story of happy families, in fact some of the characters and their reactions to Abbey and her Mum's existence are terrible and it was interesting as a reader to actively dislike a set of characters for a whole novel and I was surprised that despite my dislike for the Fitzpatrick brothers that I couldn't stop reading!
There are a number of mysteries in the book and Sheila's talent as a story teller really comes through as she slowly builds the picture of the Fitzpatrick family and of Abbey's life in San Francisco and brings them together all the while keeping the whereabouts of Abbey's mum secret. There are lots of hints about what has happened to Abbey's Mum and I spent a large part of the book trying to guess what the big reveal would be and reading as quickly as I could to find out if my guess was correct!
Abbey and Suzanne Fitzpatrick were amongst my favourite characters and excellent examples in their own way of strong, independent women. I also liked Abbey's father figure Pete and Irish lawyer Ryan who both help Abbey to make her difficult decision in a supportive and caring way. The decision Abbey has to make really got me thinking `what would I do if...?' and I was impressed by the way that Sheila showed both sides of the story in what felt like a very realistic way examining the emotions and questions around how people change over time and the importance of not regretting the past.
With just a touch of romance and an ending that brought tears to my eyes, Things We Never Say is another excellent read from one of my favourite authors - highly recommended!
I have been a huge fan of Sheila O'Flanagan for many years now, she is one of those authors who I never tire of. I love discovering new authors and new genres, but there is something special about returning to a favourite writer, knowing that you will not be let down.
Things We Never Say is classic Sheila O'Flanagan, filled with her trademark, realistic characters with their Irish humour and eccentricities.
Abbey Anderson is based in San Francisco and is floundering a little. Her boyfriend has done a bunk without telling her. She's really not doing very well as an artist, she can't bear her job in the Gallery and her mother has taken her own life in a totally new direction. However, Abbey is a great nail artist and she does have an adopted family in the shape of her mum's ex-boyfriend Pete, his new wife and their kids.
In Dublin, the Fitzpatrick family appear to be successful and wealthy with enviable lifestyles. Fred, the patriarch of the family worked very hard, building a successful business from nothing. He now lives in the house of his dreams, but at eighty-one years old and recently widowed, he's been spending more and more time thinking back over his life. He is haunted by something that happened fifty years ago, and is determined that he will make amends before he dies.
It is this decision that brings Abbey Anderson and the Fitzpatrick family together, with dramatic consequences and life-changing events.
Sheila O'Flanagan excels in creating characters that the reader can relate to and recognise. Things We Never Say is dominated by female characters who range from the ethereal Ellen to the money-hungry Zoey and whilst each character is flawed, this only adds to their realism. Her male characters play more of a supporting role in this story, and again the men are a diverse bunch.
I enjoyed this story of family dynamics, mixed with topical issues such as the economic melt-down and the tragedies and suffering of the Magdelene laundries.
The perfect comfort read from an author who consistently delivers great stories.
It’s been many years since I last picked up a book by Sheila O’Flanagan – I have no idea why, there are plenty of them on my shelves, just too many new writers vying for attention I guess. Her new one, Things We Never Say, is published in paperback on 24 April by Headline Review and is – unbelievably – her eighteenth full-length novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m so pleased I’ve rediscovered her writing.
This is an excellent story set mainly in California and Ireland. In San Francisco, Abbey Andersen leaves her job at an art gallery to become a nail artist, gets unceremoniously dumped by her feckless boyfriend and evicted soon afterwards, is deep in debt and surviving with the support of her mother’s former boyfriend Pete. In Ireland, we meet the Fitzpatricks, overbearing father Fred living in his luxury home in Howth and continuing to overshadow the lives of his adult children Donald, Gareth and Suzanne, and those of their families, all with their own problems and issues. The storylines come together when Abbey is visited by an Irish investigator with news that has far-reaching impacts on them all.
Abbey is a particularly likeable character and a good focus for the story - I really liked her relationship with Pete, her interactions with her mother, and her strong conscience that governs her actions and decisions. The Fitzpatrick family are wonderfully drawn too – particularly the wives who drive the story, and I had a particular soft spot for Suzanne and her plans to convert a derelict Spanish hotel. The story is really excellent, the modern day drama having its roots in a grave injustice from the past. I know some previous reviewers have found it just a little slow, but I never found it so - Sheila O’Flanagan has a wonderful ear for dialogue and I enjoyed the way she used it to move the story forward. And it’s a “grand” story, and a very enjoyable read, with plenty of twists and turns and family secrets revealed to keep you turning the pages.
I was so lucky to receive an early copy of the new Sheila O'Flanagan book. Her covers are always very appealing and this one was no different. Abbey ...Anderson is the main character in this story and she is the least likely person to want to change her life. However, she doesn't realise that a man called Ryan Gilligan will come into her life and give her news that changes everything. When the Irish lawyer Ryan visits her in her home in San Francisco she realises that her whole life is based on a lie. What she needs to do is travel to Dublin to find out a lot more about what she has been told.
Now I know that sounds a little vague, but that's the general plot of the story and I really don't like spoilers so that is all I can really say. Abbey is an easy character to like and for the first few chapters I loved the friends and family she was surrounded with. Her relationship with her mother was unexplained, but the reasoning for that becomes evident much later on.
For some reason which I cannot put into words, this book was one that I really didn't want to put down. It certainly wasn't all roses for the characters and there really wasn't a theme of `everyone has a happy ending'. Maybe this was what made me want to continue reading. Sheila O'Flanagan manages to peel away the layers of all the characters and two different families slowly. It means that as the reader you really feel like you are getting to see people's real colours and as time went on I was swinging wildly between sympathy and annoyance at certain characters.
The second half of the book really dug into the `dirty worlds' of everybody involved and I managed to finish the second half of the book in one sitting. I have been reading Sheila O'Flanagan's books for as many years as she has been writing and this one is one of the best I have read of hers. IT certainly has a lot of things going on, plenty of twists in the story and enough tension to make you reach for the headache tablets. This was a story that was a little out of the ordinary, but one that I would highly recommend
on 5 September 2015
To begin with there are three flashback scenes which introduce to us three, separate, unrelated characters and it is unclear that they stories will do and how they relate to one another. In the present (and main bulk of the story) however, we focus on Abbey Anderson in San Francisco and the dysfunctional family of the Fitzpatrick’s in Dublin, and gradually, as the book progresses their stories intertwine.
Abbey (who is the main protagonist of this book) is a likeable and believable character who like anyone else in the world is not perfect. She has her strengths: her nail-art work, her protective nature. But also her weaknesses, for example, her male relationships. However her relationship with her Mother’s ex-boyfriend Pete is touching and he is portrayed as a sort of father figure. The parent in her life. Her Mother is a complete mystery for a large part of the book, and any guesses I had for her absence in Abbey’s life were wrong – the actual reason is a complete surprise! And despite the distance from one another there was a closeness in their relationship.
Abbey’s family is completely different from the Fitzpatrick’s – who are incredibly self-centred and focused on their individual dilemmas. The male Fitzpatricks’ cannot be described politely, throughout the whole book I intensely disliked them, they seemed to just want more money (even though they were fairly well-off) and ‘respect’. The Fitzpartick’s wife’s were also frustrating as they refused to change their lifestyles, and instead hoped that Fred would die soon so that they could have money. Susanne seemed to be the only likeable person in the family, she too requires and wants money, but she is determined to help herself and not ask, she is also the only one who does not belittle Abbey’s entitlement.
This is a thought-provoking read that portrays the irrational emotions that can occur due to the contents of a will. Abbey’s dilemma will make the reader ask themselves ‘If this happened I would do this…?’ Would your decision be the same as Abbey’s or would it be completely different? Go read this book to find out!
on 24 December 2014
Things We Never Say focuses mostly around the Fitzpatrick family; Donald, Gareth, Suzanne, and the women brought into the family by marriage, Zoey and Lisette. And of course, the character from which the whole story stems from, Fred Fitzpatrick, the father/father-in-law.
After building up his business and coming away with a whole lot of money, Fred is now living in the lap of luxury. His wife is no longer with him, but Fred has a huge house, expensive cars and a whole lot of regrets behind him. It seemed to me like Fred's children were waiting for the man to die. Right from the very beginning, they talk about Fred's will, and wonder who their father/father-in-law is going to leave his home too. They discuss it freely amongst themselves, and I just couldn't help but feel sorry for Fred. He knew what they were talking about. He knew that they were all waiting for him to pop his clogs, but there's one thing that Fred's children didn't know about their father. It seemed that Fred had secrets all of his own, and a past that no one knew about.
Abbey Andersen and her mother Ellen Connolly are linked to the Fitzpatrick family. Abbey has a grandfather and her mum is adopted, and Ellen's real father is still out there and he wants to talk to her about what happened all those years ago. It's clear that Fred is desperate to make amends. He's feeling guilty about something but Abbey doesn't know exactly what that something is. With the help of an investigator, Fred sends handsome Ryan Gilligan in search of Abbey and her mother, with a message that Fred wants to meet with Ellen.
Luckily, Abbey is given the chance to see Fred in the flesh. Her mother Ellen can't go because of personal reasons that you find out about later in the story, but Abbey is intrigued with this man and this whole other side to her life that she had no idea existed. Whilst visiting Fred, Abbey is horrified when he collapses and dies. What follows is the reading of Fred's will, and Abbey cannot believe what Fred is willing to give to Abbey and her mother...
Honestly, booklovers, this was one hell of a read. Family playing a huge role, money playing another... Each character has been given their own unique personality and I just couldn't help but shake my head in disgust at the way Fred's will was torn and grabbed at.
Donald was the eldest of the Fitzpatrick children, therefore he felt like it was his given right to take charge of any matters such as their father's will. I found Donald to be quite stubborn and set in his ways, but on another level, I can understand his uproar when the will is read to them all and he doesn't exactly get what he wanted. Also, when Ellen Connolly is brought into the picture, Donald realises that he is no longer the eldest. It's like he panics because he's losing control of the family. He just wanted money and lots of it.
And don't even get me started on his vile wife Zoey. A money-grabbing blonde who went on shopping trips constantly, wracking up the bills on Donald's credit cards! Zoey's weapon was her looks and charm though. She looked good and she knew it. Therefore whenever Donald would to kick up a fuss about the money that she had been spending, all Zoey had to do was bat her eyelashes his way, and she was forgiven. I didn't like Zoey at all. She snooped and she gossiped. I just had this image of a sort of Stepford Wife.
Gareth was the younger brother of the family, and to be honest, I didn't really get any sort of bad vibe from him at all. It seemed to me like he followed Donald a lot of the time. He sort of agreed with what Donald said and didn't really have the courage to argue against him, and if he ever did, it sounded all meek and scared. I can't blame him though, Donald is rather terrifying when he gets started. All red-faced and a bit of a hulk impressionist.
Lisette was Gareth's wife. Again, I felt like she was the meeker version of Zoey. Although when the two wives are coupled together, they do tend to get up to some sneaky things! Lisette also seemed to me like she was the more level-headed one of the two women. The reading of the will didn't send Lisette into as much of a tizzy as it sent Donald, but she had her eye on the prize for other reasons, such as the huge debts that she and Gareth have wracked up from dabbling in the property market. Lisette actually liked Fred, she went round to Fred's house a couple of times a week and did some shopping for him, but she always had her eye out for the will.
Suzanne, who isn't around much of the time due to trying to start her own business abroad, was probably the only one of the Fitzpatrick women that I liked. She and her father Fred never got on and you find out why as you read the book. It kinda' stems from when she was a young girl, and Fred was very watchful over her. Suzanne isn't too fussed about the will, although the money would help to get her started on her business adventure.
And then Abbey Andersen and her mother come into it and it all goes topsy turvy. It got very exciting, there was drama and a bit of a family feud begins to take place. Each family member begins to get worked up, each with their own particular reason, and it was just so enjoyable to read!
Becca's Books is giving Things We Never Say by Sheila O'Flanagan four scrumptious cupcakes. It was a whirlwind of secrets and uncovering the truth. And I loved it!
(Provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)
on 6 August 2014
The blurb on the back cover of this book doesn't do justice to how interesting the storyline is.
I will do my best to write a review without spoiling the plot for everyone else.
First off, I've been a fan of Sheila O'Flanagan books since the 90s. I've read most of her work and although I dislike the "chick lit" tag given to so many novels by female authors who write about lively female characters we may identify with, over the years I have noticed that her style has developed - less "chick lit" and more "women's literature" - very readable whatever you want to call it!
"Things We Never Say" has a cast of several main characters, so this keeps the pace going as we alternate between each one as the story progresses. But it does not make the plot confusing - it held my interest from start to finish. There is an element of suspense and mystery throughout, as we are kept guessing...
The Fitzpatrick family, based in Dublin, are made up of wealthy widower Fred and his grown up children:
Donald, who is a 50 year old divorcee with a sense of entitlement and a self-centred, image-conscious, shopaholic, younger second wife, Zoey.
Graham and his wife Lisette, who are both teachers and out of their depth with some unfortunate property investments.
Suzanne, who is estranged from the rest of the family and striving to make something of herself with an ambition to buy and renovate a hotel in Spain.
Brothers Donald and Graham, and their respective wives, believe that their expected inheritance when Fred pops his clogs, will solve all their problems. Suzanne expects nothing, and you get the sense that she regrets having cut herself off from her cantankerous father, but maybe her pride stops her from going back.
We also follow the story of Abbey: a likeable young woman living in San Francisco; she is a nail technician and artist who is doubtful of her own talent, unsure of her career choice and unceremoniously dumped and ripped off by her roguish boyfriend, but championed by her supportive and kindly ex-stepfather Pete.
An unexpected visit from an Irish private investigator, in the form of hunky Ryan, reveals how Abbey is linked to the Fitzpatricks, who declare all out war when Fred dies suddenly and the content of his final Will is unveiled!!
My English Lit teacher might be amused that I drew some comparisons with "King Lear" as I read the story, thinking about how each of the family's attitudes differ when there is a fortune at stake which they all believe they deserve the lion's share of.
The story demonstrates how money does not bring happiness, and how greed can destroy people's morals and relationships.
From the get-go, I found myself rooting for certain characters and hoping that others would get their come-uppance!
I can say no more about the story without giving too much away and ruining the plot.
Although I was left smiling at the end of the book, there were a few coincidences in the storyline which may require the reader to suspend their disbelief. And I would have liked to know more about what happens to some of the characters afterwards - particularly Abbey, and Suzanne with her Spanish hotel venture. IF Sheila O'Flanagan reads her own reviews, perhaps there is scope for a couple of "spin-off" novels where we revisit these characters (Maeve Binchy has done this successfully and it is a joy to open a new book and realise that we already know the main character!)
All in all, "Things We Never Say" is well worth a read - perfect to lose yourself in whenever you have a few hours to yourself.
on 24 June 2014
The book begins in a dramatic way when we meet Dilly who is being verbally and physically abused by another woman fifty five years ago. We are not told why or where she is until much later in the story.
We then meet Abbey who lives in San Francisco and working as a nail technician, a very talented one. Abbey's boyfriend ups and leaves her without repaying borrowed money and leaving other debts behind for her to pay.
Ryan Gilligan a solicitor from Ireland visits San Francisco with interesting news for Abbey, a family she never knew existed. He is really looking for her mother who's whereabouts is surrounded in mystery as Abbey doesn't want to reveal where she is.
The Fitzpatrick family in Ireland, rich and so greedy they all want as much money as they can lay their hands on. What happens Their father's will is read and things don't go to plan? What if the money wasn't left to those who expected it?
I loved Abbey, but I hated the way she didn't realise just how talented she was. All she wanted was to meet the unknown part of her family but something traumatic happens that throws it all into disarray and she finds herself hated by those around her.
We find out where her mother is and all the theories I had in my head about her were very wrong and I was so surprised at where her story takes us.
At first I didn't like any of the Fitzpatrick family except Suzanne who was estranged from them. The two sons and their wives were very unlikeable until near the end when I started to see the wives in a different light.
What I enjoyed about this book was I never quite knew what was going to happen next. I think Shelia O'Flanigan is a very clever writer to keep me guessing so much.
Families, greed, deception, secrets and a touch of romance, all I would ask for in a story.
on 29 April 2014
Review: I found this book to be really compelling from the outset and actually read this alongside my mum so we could discuss it and predict what was going to happen next. I actually find the storyline to be quite shocking, how greedy people can be and how unaccepting of change too. It was something quite different to the storylines I usually experience and that was definitely a good thing for me. In terms of pace, it was a bit of a rollercoater, sometimes moving super quick and being a real page turner, but there were other moments where it seemed a little relative and that slowed it down for me a bit. Thankfully this all balanced out to give a good pace overall and entertained me over a couple of days.
I actually really didn't like the characters in this book. Now this didn't pose a problem to me because I still wanted to find out how they all fared and how each of their stories wrapped up, but I think it was obviously excellent story writing on the part of this author, to write character that I had such an aversion to, it's much better than being apathetic towards a character and have no feelings at all evoked! I found every member of the family involved in this book in Ireland to be greedy and selfish. They had passion and drive, but only if it bettered themselves and their aspirations of what a 'good life' should be. There was the daughter of the family who wasn't entirely dislikalble, but even she got my back up at points.
Abbey who travels from the states to Ireland, although not selfish, was rather bland. She seemed to have strong points of view on some things but seemed weak willed with other decisions she had to make. This inconsistency made me dislike her, but I had to find out what was going to happen to her. Her mother had a similar character. She has some secrets herself which make for interesting reading, but overall she was just a bit too wishy washy for me. Do not fear though because there is a rather hunky Irish lawyer in the novel who was worth reading on for. He was really fun to read and I was rooting for good things to happen the entire way through.
I really enjoyed the dual setting of Ireland and San Francisco, although the description of Ireland was a little less than I was hoping for, perhaps there were more scenes in San Francisco initially that were cut out and so that is why they are both described less than expected. Overall I definitely enjoyed reading this book and fans of Sheila O'Flanagan won't be disappointed. If this is your first novel by this author then it can definitely be read without reading any of her previous novels but there are some really good novels in her collection that you should elfin timely check out too.