The Graces by Siobhan MacGowan | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction
The Graces

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

The Graces by Siobhan MacGowan

The Graces by Siobhan MacGowan is published with Welbeck and is described as a book where ‘science and faith collide against tumultuous 20th-century Ireland…a heart-wrenching historical novel, perfect for fans of Stacey Halls and Laura Purcell.’

In August I paid a visit to the gorgeous new library in Kinsale in Co. Cork and, while there, picked up a copy of The Graces. It was a book that had been frequently popping up on my social media feeds so I was delighted to discover it there on the shelves. Set in Dublin, primarily pre The Easter Rising of 1916, The Graces is a very original novel capturing a society in flux and on the brink of change.

When Rosaleen Moore was a young girl, born into a rural community on the west coast of Ireland, it was obvious to her immediate family that she had the gift of ‘the seeing’. As she reached her teenage years her gift was feared by some of the locals and a decision was made that she move to Dublin to live with her Aunt Ellen. When Rosaleen first came to the city, she was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds but also was thrilled with the anonymity that she experienced there. Ellen was less suspicious of Irish superstitions and ways. She was a bit of a free spirit who also ran a boarding house. Rosaleen helped around the house, assisting Ellen when needed and one day her attention was caught by Lorcan Mulhern, one of the lodgers.

Lorcan was quite taken by Rosaleen and invited her to an evening with his friends at the home of Mairéad Kinsella. Rosaleen was nervous but also quite intrigued to meet these folk Ellen called ‘a strange lot’ and as the evening progressed she found herself on the cusp of a most unexpected journey.

Mairéad Kinsella and her cohorts were followers of the teachings of the German physician, Dr Franz Mesmer and known as mesmerists or magnetisers.

‘We are sometimes known as magnetisers. For we use our hands, the magnetism in our own life force, to draw free the blocked stream in a suffering soul…We believe there are some beings so perfectly attuned to the life force, to unseen powers within and without, that they can see and do what others less evolved can not’

Rosaleen was taken aback when Mairéad followed her explanation with a statement of belief that Rosaleen may be one such being. Rosaleen was immediately struck by the fact that these people did not fear her as those in her home village in Co. Clare did. She felt something else, as all eyes were upon her, she felt almost revered. Little did Rosaleen know then the direction her life would take. As her skills became more recognised, her standing among certain folk was elevated. She was hesitant of the acclaim but soon began to enjoy the power and acceptance among this eclectic bunch of people.

But, as the opening chapter reveals, Rosaleen Moore, or The Rose as she became known as, is now dead. On her deathbed she confesses to a priest and now, the night of her anniversary, as pilgrims make their way to the bell tower of Mount St Kilian Abbey, which has become a shrine to her, a story is about to be told. A story that, although fiction, is wrapped around real-life events of the time. Siobhan MacGowan takes the reader on a visual odyssey back to the tumultuous years of the early twentieth century when Ireland was fighting for her independence and her people were fighting for their freedom. Clandestine meetings were commonplace as plots were devised and people picked sides. It was also a time when some members of society looked for alternative meanings and had views that were in opposition to those of most of the population. Ireland was an extremely Catholic place at that time with the church having huge sway among communities. Rosaleen’s gift frightened many but to others she was prophetic in her wisdom and they believed in her to the point of rapture.

The GracesThe Graces is Rosaleen Moore’s story. It is an incredibly authentic, haunting and engaging tale that evokes so many feelings, a mixture of sorrow, anger and frustration. It is historical fiction that compels and entices and sets the heartbeat racing. An enveloping read from start to finish, The Graces is an outstanding and mesmerising novel, a stunning tale of one extraordinary young woman. One not to be missed!

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books