All We Shall KnowThis is a striking and stunning tale about Melody Shee and her husband Pat who have been married for years. Seemingly unable to have children he visits prostitutes and she embarks on an affair with a 17-year-old boy from the local Traveller community.  When she falls pregnant by the boy and tells Pat he leaves her.

Melody is befriended by Mary, a 19-year-old from the Traveller community who has been ostracised by her family. Through the character of Mary Ryan he gives us a deep insight into the Traveller community, their customs, how they deal with people and their traditions. He paints vivid pictures of her visits to the halting site, particularly when her car breaks down.

Melody is punishing herself, she believes she is not worthy, that she does not deserve love. She had love once from Breedie her best friend in their early teen years and throw it all away. Ryan explores relationships, how society treats women who are pregnant but not by their husbands and questions has life really moved on in Ireland. Through the story he asks the question do you need children to be a complete person or to complete a marriage and with the Catholic guilt is oozing from the pages.

Donal Ryan has structured the book so that each chapter is a week in her pregnancy. We follow her through the nine months of the pregnancy, the sickness, scans and finally the birth. Ryan has succeeded brilliantly in not only telling the story in the female voice, but as a pregnant woman as well.

Set as his other books are in and around Limerick he captures the landscape, the people and life perfectly, with clarity. By setting each chapter as one week of the pregnancy you are on the journey with Melody, experiencing her fears, encounters with neighbours and her emotions as she rebuilds her relationship with her father.  The love and affection between herself and her Dad is raw and Ryan has the amazing ability to make you feel sorry for Melody but yet not like her.

The style is a wonderful blend of evocative writing and storytelling which will pull at your emotion and have you crying. It’s a wonderful novel that I absolutely loved and would love you to read it to.
Transworld/£12.99/ 9780857524379

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