Little Beauty, by Alison Jameson
Reviewed by Freya McClements
Laura Quinn has spent her life on Inis Míol Mór, “a small wet sponge off the west coast of Ireland”. At the age of 38 she must decide if her lover, Martin Cronin, “a man worn out like a dishcloth”, will marry her or if she should leave for a housekeeping job on the mainland. Disappointed by Martin, she travels to Bishopstown House and is shown a new life by the wealthy and elegant Finn and Audrey. A year later she is back home, the unmarried mother of baby Matthew. For Laura, her son provides the love she has long been searching for, but as a single parent in the 1970s she must contend with opposition and prejudice from priest and social worker alike. This is a wonderfully unsentimental and entertaining portrait of an island community in thrall to the sea and the wind, where the local busybodies brandish “handbags like weapons” and, for better or worse, everybody knows everybody else’s business.