Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.
Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.
By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.
It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
Two women are uneasy neighbours. On the surface, they have very little in common except for the hostility between them. New Year’s Eve starts a chain of events that draws their paths together in ways they would never imagine.
This is classic Irish storytelling, which spans three time periods. Each foray into the past builds a picture of why Amanda and Tess are the people they are.
Neither character is immediately likeable but they are believable and as the story unfolds, so do their true personalities. The revelations make their past choices and present situations easier to understand and Amanda and Tessa easier to empathise.
Amanda’s life is cosmetically perfect but underneath the surface, there are too many cracks, and she realises she is existing not living.
Tess’ accidents make her take stock of her life and vow to make something of the time she has left. It is this realisation, coupled with a teenage girl who wants to help and a cat who wants a warm welcome that makes her start to trust again and value herself.
The story is well-paced, and the ending ties up everything and gives hope for a happier future.
A poignant, sometimes comical, enjoyable story.
Guest Post – The Magic of Friendship- Faith Hogan
The Girl I Used To Know has been described as Uplit, feel good, grown-up, women’s fiction. It certainly falls into all of those brackets, but in writing it, I wanted it to be a manifesto for women’s friendship. Friends are the lifelong anchor for many of us to keep us who we are and what we’re striving to become. Friends are the common denominator that we can choose and if we’re wise, we choose them carefully.
The reality is, that we can make friends at any stage in life, often the best of friends are found the last place you expect and sometimes, they are right under your nose if you just take the time to really look at the person before you. The Girl I Used To Know is about seeing past the façade that we so often build up around ourselves and looking at the person underneath. Very often, it’s surprising to find that ultimately, we are all the same – we all want the same things, to be happy – to be loved.
Tess Cuffe, a curmudgeonly woman (who is not nearly as old as she imagines herself to be) has long since given up any desire to make friends, certainly not with the snooty Amanda King. The thing about Tess is that above anyone, she probably needs a good friend the most, but of course, like so often in life, she’s the only one who can’t see this. Her ability to get along with others has long since been buried in her own bitterness and regret.
Once, Tess had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.
A simple act of kindness opens things up for Tess and like a complicated set of dominoes, opening her heart to one small creature is enough to create a fissure to allow a sliver of something better through.
Tess has spent twenty years living her life to spite her neighbours, but it’s a funny thing when she realises that Amanda King’s life is not so perfect as she imagined she doesn’t get quite the same pleasure out of it that she might have imagined. It is too late to luxuriate in the misery of her nemesis – it seems to Tess that somewhere, somehow, she is forced to chose a side and going against all that has propelled her for so long, she chooses Amanda.
Amanda King has lived a life of her own choosing, or at least that’s what she believes, but when her world comes crashing down, she’s forced to admit that she’s become someone that she hardly recognises anymore.
Once, Amanda had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.
This is a story of two women who realise that in spite of the fact that on the outside, they appear to be very different, it turns out they have more in common than they realised. Friendship may not be the answer to their problems, but it certainly makes life better in ways they could never have imagined, if only they can meet halfway.
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.