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on 13 March 2013
The only thing I hated about this book was that it ended! "With all my love" is a unique treat, a jewel of a book, with lots of wisdom and love on every page.

Life and family and especially the relationship between two women, Valerie and her boyfriend's mother Tessa, are the main ingredienses in this story. Valerie and Jeff are young and happily in love. Valerie in her first job after her finals and Jeff studying engineering. They are happy and carefree and loving their life in Dublin where Valerie is sharing an apartment with her close friend from childhood, Lizzie.

And then their lives are changed as Valerie becomes pregnant, which in the eighties is still not at all acceptable in catholic Ireland and small town Rockland's where Valerie's and Jeff's families live.

We follow Valerie and Jeff, their little daughter and families on both sides through many years in this book. Which is not only bliss although it's feelgood reading. Tragedy strikes and shatters all of their lives forever. Grief, misunderstandings, jealousy, hate - but in the end, most of all love. Love and forgiveness are what finally bring the two families together and heal the bitterness and wounds.

The book entails priceless accounts of little happy girls and their endeavours. Valerie's daugther Briony and later Briony's daughter Katie, so much alike, are bright as button little madams adding their own unique wisdom to the world around them. "Gamma", "Gandad" and "Valwie" and little Briony and Katie. So much sharing and so much missing out due to a family feud, or rather two women not able to share and understand each other's love for a son and a lover.

Read this book and give yourself a wonderful weekend (if it lasts that long) engulfed in Patricia Scanlan's world of love and wisdom. A book like this does not come often.
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'With All My Love' is a poignant, heart-breaking yet touching look at different kinds of love, and how they shape the people who we are, and the people we are destined to be. The tale is told through flashbacks into the life of Valerie Harris when she was a young girl, falling in love with her new boyfriend Jeff. Valerie suffers with a poor relationship with her controlling father, and this influences her as she grows older, her need for independence is quite desperate, and as such she's a fairly lonely girl. I really did like Valerie, even though I didn't necessarily agree with the things she did, particularly towards her 'in-laws'.

I enjoyed the way it came full circle too, with Valerie being taught a harsh lesson the way she had acted all those years ago as well. Brioney and Valerie's adult relationship as mother and daughter isn't always plain sailing, but Scanlan manages to keep the relationship realistic and believable, whilst ultimately conveying the hurt and betrayal both women are feeling. Valerie's despair and Briony's anger are beautifully written, you can almost feel these emotions along with these characters. Some of the scenes are so painfully raw, you cannot help but shed a tear, I certainly did, and credit goes to Scanlan for really conveying the emotions these scenes warranted. It is good too to see Briony as an adult, and we are shown how Valerie's behaviour early on in her life has impacted her own adulthood, this added a new dimension to the book, and it was fun to flick back and forth between past and present.

As well as focussing on the Harris women, Scanlan also focusses in on Tessa and Lorcan, Jeff's parents. Tessa was quite a dislikeable women, judgmental and unkind at times, and I struggled to warm to her at all. Yet through her writing, Scanlan ensures you certainly feel empathy towards her plight, and what happens to her is terrible and as her story is revealed, I did slightly change my opinion of her and wished she would just come clean to Valerie, and even to Lorcan about her feelings. Scanlan is good at keeping these characters on the brink, holding their secrets back without spilling them, almost to the point of the readers frustration!

Scanlan really has a knack for writing about the truth behind relationships, and 'With All My Love' is a superb novel, highlighting not only the importance of family in our lives, and how to appreciate those around us, but also how quickly split decisions can impact your future, and those around you too. With a cast of very different female characters, 'With All My Love' certainly has characters and relationships within that most women will be able to relate to, and for that Scanlan ensures a broad readership. This is a book to be enjoyed by the generations, and with its glorious descriptions of Ireland, complicated women and a story to fall in love with, 'With All My Love' is sure to be another must-read from one of Ireland's greatest authors.
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on 11 July 2013
I have always enjoyed Patricia Scanlan's books and have read and re-read them many times. I found this book depressing, and I guessed the end twist as soon as it was introduced,. Although it was interesting, and held my attention, I was disappointed compared to her previous books and know that I will not read this one again.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 February 2013
Briony McAllistair spends the day with her four year old daughter Katie in Southern Spain. She is on a visit to her mother Valerie, who has recently brought herself a place there. As Katie plays, Briony pulls out an old photo album that contains a letter that will change everything for her. The letter begins My Darling Briony. After many years, Briony discovers that her beloved Grandmother Tessa is alive and well, and has spent many years harbouring after contact with her first born Granddaughter. The first couple of chapters were interesting enough to pull me into the book without a hesitation. What at first seemed like an ordinary story very quickly turns into a complicated plot.

Patricia Scanlan's latest book grabbed me from the early stages and quite frankly didn't let go until the very end. This is one of Patricia's best books I have read. When Briony makes her discovery her instinct is to up and leave, but after a conversation with her Godmother, and Valerie's best friend as well as her husband she decides to wait and see what her mother has to say. This is the very beginning of the story and we are taken back to the past by Valerie herself. I thought this book would be sectioned out between past and present, and although it is to a degree, the majority of the story takes us through Valerie's life and how she has got to where she is today.

I very quickly got drawn back to when Valerie met Briony's father Jeff and her relationship with his parents Tessa and Lorcan. Times were very different when Valerie was young and Patricia Scanlan does a sterling job in transporting you back to a time when unmarried mothers and abortion were deeply frowned upon. I fell in love with the fiery and young Valerie and as the story progressed lots of things are revealed about the sorry state of affairs the present day has ended in. Before long I was shocked to discover I was three quarters of the way through the book in one sitting! What I really loved about this latest book is the layers within it that are ordinary (if that makes sense). Just the lives of ordinary people, who make mistakes, say things they don't mean and the consequences because of it.

I initially found myself disliking Tessa, however as the story went on it was easy to turn that around and sympathise. I think that by the time I got to the end of the book I was truly sad to have finished it, but found myself thinking this was by far and a mile one of the best Patricia Scanlan books I have read in a while. It was utterly absorbing and one that I couldn't put down. Highly recommended.
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on 23 March 2013
I cannot for one minute comprehend why anyone would not view this book as a crucial example of the development of Patricia's writing.
We see Valerie and Jeff's life unfolding through a series of flashbacks. True acknowledgement is shown of the 1980s and the impact of Irish and Catholic culture on the birth of their illegitimate child child, Briony. Awareness is evident of abusive parental influence in the previous generation. If any critics see this as non-progression in the author's writing they are choosing to read the wrong text and should seek shallow and insincere alternatives.
I contacted the author last year and unfortunately could not respond as I got caught up in my own family tragedy. This book captured my imagination and moved me into broader thinking about the afterlife and how it might impact on real life.
Don't be put off by my words. It is as Marian Keyes says "a book you can't put down." It is a credible story, well written and reflective. My only word to the author is that I didn't feel I knew Jeff awful well. I did love Lizzie, Carmel and truly I could relate to Valerie and Tessa though.
This book helped me view how positive endings could emerge through sad and premature death yet it lacked none of Patricia's personal and loving writing style.
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on 2 April 2014
Very well written with fleshed out characters, it's not hard to imagine the places and people in the book. The main message of the story is forgiveness..... Thirty year old Briony stumbles across a letter that indicates that her mum has lied to her all her life and kept her from her dead fathers family. The story then reflects back to the 1980s and what led up to the separation. It's a lovely story with a good ending.
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on 19 October 2014
OK for very light reading, it kept me company on a sleepless night. It addresses the important issue of family rifts and their consequences, but it is hardly original! No surprises here, but a comforting read if that's what you need
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on 8 April 2014
This book was awful, it was boring and repetitive. I don't know why it has been rated so highly. I kept waiting for something to happen in the story and got to the end and was very disappointed. I also hated how the author made the children talk with baby voices, it made me want to pull my hair out!! Do not recommend this book and will not be reading anything else by this author!
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on 2 June 2014
Patricia Scanlan is one of my favourite authors and this was another great read. This book builds up the characters by describing their pasts to explain their current situations. An easy going story with a few emotional parts, where you can feel the hurt of the characters.
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VINE VOICEon 1 April 2014
I really enjoyed this book. The plight of unmarried mothers in Ireland and the cost of making a decision and the repercussions it can have on others and yourself later on in life. Easy read, but with humour and romance. I loved Lizzie, I think everyone would love to have a best friend like her.
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