“The Boatman’s Wife” by Noëlle Harrison – Book Review

Secrets. We all have them, yet some are more consequential than others. When young Lily Fitzgerald is widowed at the tender age of twenty-four, she discovers that her beloved husband has been harboring a serious secret indeed.

2017 – Lily is a lobster fisher who lives in Maine. All she has ever wanted to do was be out fishing in her father’s boat the Lily Mae. Because she didn’t go out on one particular day, her husband Connor (a cook) went in her stead. A freak storm came up and the boat was capsized. Connor, an inexperienced fisherman, was lost at sea.

Lily, wanting to let Connor’s grandmother back in Ireland know of his death, goes through his computer looking for her address.  Instead, she finds a disturbing email:

Bereft and distraught, with grief still raw, she travels from their home in Maine to the rugged coast of Western Ireland to try and find out what Connor was hiding from her.

1992 Niamh lives in Mullaghmore, a tiny village near the border with Northern Ireland. She and her mother Rosemary live alone after her father was shot and killed by terrorists. Her mother, Rosemary Kelly, takes his loss hard. After her father’s death, when she is only sixteen, she becomes involved with the IRA, a decision which will shape her life. Niamh meets and falls in love with an American man named Jesse who has come to Ireland to apprentice as a boat builder. She tries to sever her connections to the IRA, but her efforts are thwarted. She is a gunrunner – code name “The Boatman’s Wife“.  Feeling trapped and guilt ridden, she makes a profound decision.

This was a dual time-line story that grabbed me from the beginning. It was a story that evoked many emotions. You immediately assume you know how the two timelines will eventually come together, yet there are still surprises in store.

It seemed so unlikely that Connor, who seemed such a sympathetic character, could have a secret so serious that he would receive death threats. Mullaghmore, Connor’s tiny home town in Ireland seemed so beautiful, so benign, that it seemed implausible that someone who lived there could wish him ill. And more to the point, why, even after the residents of Mullaghmore know that Connor is dead, do they still threaten Lily and want her to leave?

Lily was such a strong character that it was difficult to read of her bereavement and suffering which was compounded by her anger at her father whom she blamed for Connor’s death.

The settings of this novel were two of my favourites. Anywhere near the sea is enticing to me as a setting and this one delivered twice – on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Besides being a tale of two women, their losses and their loves, it also contained more than a little suspense and intrigue. This is a story about the many stages of grief, of hope for the future, and of changed circumstances that inspire new beginnings.

Highly recommended! I enjoyed this story so much that I already have the author’s “Island Girls” loaded on my Kindle.

I chose to read this title as part of my Reading Ireland Month 2021 challenge after reading glowing reviews from my fellow bloggers Carla and Joanne.

Carla’s review   –   Joanne’s review

I purchased “The Boatman’s Wife” in Kindle format from Amazon.ca

Published by Bookouture

ASIN: B08LVYJ47T –  296 pages  –  ISBN: 9781800191983

Noëlle Harrison is an Irish author who’s been writing novels and plays for nearly thirty years. Her first novel, Beatrice was published in August 2004 and was a bestseller in Ireland. This was followed by A Small Part Of Me in 2005, I Remember in 2008, The Adulteress in 2010, The Secret Loves of Julia in 2012, The Gravity of Love in 2018, and The Island Girls in 2020.

In 2014 she was one of 56 Irish Writers included in the anthology and exhibition Lines of Vision Irish Writers on Art at the National Gallery of Ireland, and published by Thames & Hudson.

Her books have been published in over 12 different countries. She is also published under the pen name Evie Blake and her Valentina Trilogy hit the Der Spiegel Bestseller List in 2013.

She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is one of the founders of Aurora Writers’ Retreats.

Follow Noëlle Harrison on Twitter @NoelleHarrison


About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Bookouture, Reading Ireland, Women's fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to “The Boatman’s Wife” by Noëlle Harrison – Book Review

  1. Carol says:

    Sounds really good!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mischenko says:

    I saw that you were reading this over on Goodreads. Glad you ended up enjoying it. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds great Lynne, with a really strong sense of place.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carla says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did Lynne. The settings of this story were amazing and the one in Maine certainly was like an additional character. Great review.


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