Extract From ‘That Girl’ Kate Kerrigan
Sligo, Ireland, 1961
‘It was her first visit to Dr Dorian Black’s surgery, and Hanna liked him straight away.
She had only been living in Killa for a few weeks at the time. After her father died suddenly, two years before, her mother Margaret decided they needed a new start and rented a small cottage in Killa, a fishing village on the north-west coast of county Sligo. Margaret hoped proximity to the sea would help heal their ongoing grief. Indeed, Margaret’s spirits lifted as she began a new life among people who knew little or nothing about her, fitting easily into the friendly new parish. Hanna, just thirteen, had settled well into the local convent school. Their home was at the end of the pier, and Hanna developed an appetite for the fresh, salty air, spending hours sitting on the front wall reading and watching the sea. However, this time spent in the chilly air had also resulted in a nasty cough. Margaret, overly protective of her only child, had brought her straight up to the local surgery where she had been greeted by this kind, handsome Dr Black.
‘Now, we’re going to have to take a little look in your mouth, Hanna. Can you open wide for me?’
Hanna opened her mouth widely and he peered in. He smelt of soap and she felt strangely pleased to be in the company of a nice man, even if he was only their doctor. Most of the men they knew from home were farmers, rough and ready, smelling of manure or beer. This man was clean and gentle, like her father. She missed him. It had been two years now and Hanna had started to find it hard to call his face to mind.
‘Now, that doesn’t look too bad.’ Dorian leaned back and took his stethoscope from around his neck. Hanna smiled at him. His accent was refined, barely detectable as Irish. She reminded him of a Jane Austen hero, handsome and dapper like Darcy, but friendly and open too, like Bingley.
‘Well, young lady,’ he said, ‘I think you’ll live.’ Hanna laughed.
Then he turned his attention to Margaret. ‘But, I am writing you a prescription for some antibiotics to clear this nasty cough.’
‘Thank you, Doctor,’ Margaret said.
‘Please,’ he said, smiling, ‘call me Dorian.’
‘Thank you, Dorian.’
Hanna noticed her mother blushing. Margaret was taken with him and, for a moment, Hanna felt pricked with possessive irritation. She reminded herself that her father was dead and it was nice, after all, to see her mother smiling.
As they were leaving, Dorian signalled Margaret to stay back for a private word. For a split second she had a dreadful feeling that there was something wrong with Hanna. After losing Liam, she knew she had become unnaturally attached to her daughter. There was just the two of them now. She couldn’t face it if Hanna were sick.
‘I was wondering,’ Dr Black said, his eyes downcast in shyness, ‘if you would do me the honour of allowing me to take you and Hanna out to dinner this evening.’
Over the coming weeks, Dorian courted Margaret. It was like a dream. This charming, erudite man had come into their lives after all the pain, hurt and shock of the last two years. She could hardly believe her luck in finding love again and, although she was as head over heels as a schoolgirl, it was Dorian’s kindness towards Hanna that truly won Margaret’s heart. Most men would have baulked at taking on another man’s daughter, but every time they went out for a drive, to a nice hotel for dinner or to a movie theatre, he always made sure to invite Hanna. Even when they went to Dublin for a weekend, Dorian insisted she and Hanna shared their own room in the Shelbourne rather than have Hanna enduring the upset of her mother being with another man.
That, he said, was the reason for his marriage proposal just two months after their initial meeting.’
You can escape a place. But you can’t escape yourself.
Hanna flees the scene of a terrible crime in her native Sligo. If she can just vanish, re-invent herself under a new name, perhaps the police won’t catch up with her. London seems the perfect place to disappear.
Lara has always loved Matthew and imagined happy married life in Dublin. Then comes the bombshell – Matthew says he wants to join the priesthood. Humiliated and broken-hearted, Lara heads to the most godless place she can find, King’s Road, Chelsea.
Matthew’s twin sister, Noreen, could not be more different from her brother. She does love fiance John, but she also craves sex, parties and fun. Swinging London has it all, but without John, Noreen is about to get way out of her depth.
All three girls find themselves working for Bobby Chevron – one of London’s most feared gangland bosses – and it’s not long before their new lives start to unravel.
This is a well- written character driven story, set against the background of the ‘swinging sixties’ in London. There’s crime, fashion and sex but this all takes second place to the stories of the three Irish girls Hanna, Lara and Noreen. Their courage, humour and tragedies keep the reader enthralled, empathic and shocked in this page-turning read.
The girls share a common heritage and their lives become increasingly interlinked as the story progresses with devasting consequences for one of them, The setting of a gangland club in Chelsea, captures the vibe of the sixties and the unique mix of fashionable and sordid which made this time in London iconic and a honey trap for naive girls.
The story doesn’t shy away from abuse and violence because this is integral to the plot but it is sensitively written and ensures the reader empathises with the heroines instantly. The ending is suspenseful, as you begin to wonder if everything the girls have achieved will be lost.
This is a memorable story, punctuated with vivid imagery and believable characters, not to be missed.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Bio Kate Kerrigan
Kate Kerrigan lives in County Mayo, Eire, with her husband and children. Her novels include Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, shortlisted for the 2006 Romantic Novel of the Year Award and Ellis Island, which was a TV Book Club Summer Read.
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