It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall | Book Reviews | General Fiction
It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall is published with Corvus and is described as ‘a warm, witty and relatable story of life on the frontline of parenting’. Recently, on social media, I saw Andrea Mara refer to The Lodgers, (just published) by Eithne Shortall, as a ‘gem of a book, a moving, heart-filled story beautifully told. I laughed out loud and cried reading it and can’t wait for Eithne’s next book’ and realised that I had never read any of Eithne Shortall’s work.

Quickly remedied, I picked up the copy of It Could Never Happen Here. For various reasons, I hadn’t gotten to it, so immediately I very happily jumped in and what an absolutely stunning read. At a point in the book, I stopped, closed it on my lap, looked out the window and contemplated what I was experiencing. Having recently read, and adored, The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (just longlisted for The Booker Prize), I was immediately captured by Eithne Shortall’s writing style in a similar manner. Here is a book I knew I could give my heart to, with characters that left me bereft, amused and enthralled.

Set in Cooney, a town in West Cork, Glass Lake Primary School is very well known. It is a school in demand, one where the affluent and those of a social-climbing nature desire to get their children into. Christine Maguire works as a journalist for the local paper in Cooney. She went to Glass Lake Primary herself so her children are automatically offered places. But for many others, they use relatives’ addresses and their position in society, anything they can offer, to get a place for their kids. Once part of the Glass Lake community, the next barrier is surviving the school gate, a hive of gossip and derision, with the clique culture well and truly established. Beverley Franklin relishes her influence and control over the Lakers, the parents committee. Her children have attended Glass Lake and her daughter Amelia is in the same class as Maeve Maguire, Christine’s daughter. Also in that class is Woody Whitehead.

Woody is part of a family that have been ostracised in Cooney, due to a very tragic accident, with feelings among the locals blatantly clear. For Woody, his older brother Arlo and their Mum, life is a daily struggle.

The principal of Glass Lake, Nuala Patterson, has her own personal cross to carry but, add the menopause on top of that, and Nuala has little patience for the demanding parents that tread a well-worn path into her office with their daily demands and ultimatums.

The big news in the school is the school musical, with Beverley at the forefront as producer and director. But when an unexpected incident happens involving Amelia, Beverley is put off-balance. Her perfectly curated life is in danger of toppling. As the drama heightens, the locals are slow to see the woods from the trees, with potential consequences that could result in distressing and shocking events in the town of Cooney

When I started reading It Could Never Happen Here, I was immediately smitten by the dialogue and the writing style of Eithne Shortall. What I hadn’t anticipated was the heartfelt and genuine affection I would develop for some of the characters, one in particular. This book went way deeper than I expected and as the story unfolded, details were revealed that would affect the hardest of hearts. I mentioned earlier The Bee Sting by Paul Murray and the comparison between the two books became more obvious to me as I peeled away the layers. In my review of The Bee Sting I said –‘Paul Murray depicts the lives of all these people in a stunning way, bringing a whole community alive with all its quirks, successes and failures’ – and the same applies to It Could Never Happen Here. This is a book filled to the brim with sensitivity, humour, grief and pain but it also highlights the insular nature of a small community and the spiteful and prying behaviour of its inhabitants.

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne ShortallIt Could Never Happen Here is an extremely gratifying, tender and very emotional novel that carries quite an unexpected impact. It’s got everything I adore in a book, including a style of writing that very much appeals to me, with an underlying Irish wit permeating every chapter. A remarkable read & one I am very happy to recommend you all add to those teetering TBR piles!

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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