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A Christmas Miracle in the Little Irish Village by Michelle Vernal #Review

  Michelle Vernal's A Christmas Miracle in the Little Irish Village was published on September 27th by Bookoutre . Ava Kelly loves returning to Emerald Bay for Christmas. Snowflakes fall on the green rolling hills and mulled wine fills The Shamrock Inn with the smell of winter spice. But this year, the Kelly family is hoping for a miracle… When twenty-four-year-old Ava Kelly and her adventurous twin Grace return home to The Shamrock Inn, their Ma’s favourite baubles bring back so many memories of Christmases past. They have always done everything together, even leaving their little Irish village for the excitement of London. But with the locket her handsome ex Shane gave her hanging just above her heart, Ava has just one wish this festive season… After a year stuck in a job she can’t stand and going on dreadful dates, Ava longs to be back with Shane. Curling up in front of the fire with him, the brooding fisherman everyone else sees melts away as his blue eyes meet hers.

You will be safe here by Damian Barr #Review

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on April 2nd, You Will Be Safe Here has received some critical acclaim:

An Observer, Guardian, Financial Times, Sunday Times South Africa, Irish Times, Irish Independent, Big Issue and Strong Words Pick of the Year

An Irish Times and The Times Summer Reading Pick

Shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year Award


A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers - a century apart - must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.

Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.
 Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.

The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.

My Thoughts

This is a moving and powerful novel and as a debut novel, is an impressive read. Set a hundred years or so apart, you see two situations where vulnerable people are kept in camps. In 1901, you are taken to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp, where Sarah is being kept. Fast forward to 2010 and Willem is enduring a stay in the New Dawn Safari Camp. It is as much of a prison as Sarah's camp. Mo matter what is said otherwise, neither of them are safe there.

    I found Sarah's camp diary to be a very effective way of conveying her thoughts and observations. It is an intimate method of recording thoughts and a great contrast to the third person account of later parts, which seem more impersonal and underline the isolation which Willem must feel as he is expected to conform. The premise behind the Training camp, that boys can be 'toughened up' and made to conform is a shocking idea.

    The historical detail of what happened in South Africa during the Boer War is a shocking and hard hitting element. This is a sad and moving read which informs and shows you how ideology can be a cruel and dehumanizing master when allowed to fester. 

In short: South African history brought alive. 

About the Author

Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher's Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’ and won the Paddy Power Political Books 'Satire' Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award

Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel. Damian Barr lives in Brighton. 

You can follow Damian here:  Twitter  |  Website

Book link: Amazon UK 

Thanks to Damian Barr, Bloomsbury Publishing and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for a copy of the book and a place on the tour.  

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