Blog Tour Book Club: The Cleanskin

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Author: Laura Bloom
ISBN: 978-1-925399-14-1
RRP: $26.99

We are trying something completely new with this one! We were approached to take part in the blog tour celebrating the release of Laura Bloom’s new book The Cleanskin, and I love being involved in blog tours so jumped at the chance; this time instead of doing an interview or review we are doing a Book Club so 10 of our members will also be reading the book and coming to review it in the comments.

I went in blind with this book club, which is something I don’t often do. I don’t think I had even checked out the synopsis for this one, but perhaps it all blended in the sea of September book clubs.

The Cleanskin is set in a little town in the region surrounding Byron Bay and there is a lot of the laid back and casual attitude you often hear about Byron Bay.

We start with Aidan, fresh off the plane from London and on a mission to find someone he hasn’t seen in nearly two decades, sent on the wishes of his brother. We don’t know why he’s looking for her or what he hopes to achieve, just that he’s there to find her.

He’s in town looking for Megan so it gets a little confusing for a while when the woman he finds is Halley, so for the duration of the story we are hearing about both Megan and Halley but it doesn’t take long to get that straight in your head.

In the present day Halley is a married cafe owner with a teenaged son, everything is not well with her life but it seems to be quite usual drifting away issues.

Aidan turns up in the cafe and throws Halley off balance, wondering how he found her as much as what he wants. This appearance in her life brings up all of the things from her past that Halley has been running from and she’s still not ready to face it.

The timeline starts to skip back and forth from present day Mullumbimby to all of the times and places that brought them to this moment. The late 70s, the late 80s and the early 90s all contain pivotal moments in this story.

The Cleanskin is a work of fiction but there are true historic events that provided the inspiration for the story, and this is why I love to read the Author’s Note and Acknowledgements.

The basis for the story is the Troubles in Ireland, the IRA bombings and the ongoing war between the Catholics and the Protestants. Again, this is an area where my history is sketchy. I remember hearing about some of the bombings but to be honest it all seemed far removed from me and my life.

the cleanskin

Bloom has woven an interesting sense of suspense throughout the story because it is only slowly, through conversations and recollections that we piece together the puzzle of what made Megan run from her life and start fresh with a new name.

The characters are believable and relatable with interesting depth. I quite enjoyed the way that Bloom has incorporated the relationships and the way they work with Halley and her past. There are lots of interesting little subplots that leave you wondering until all the pieces start to come together.

The Cleanskin is a story of charisma and charm, and the ease with which they can manipulate; a story of belief in something bigger than yourself and the totally uncharacteristic way they can steer your life if you are not vigilant. It’s a story of relationships and the way in which we let the past dictate our future.

This is an intriguing and important story that tells of just one of the religious wars that have happened through history, and the way in which they illustrate our similarities. These things aren’t just an issue of the Irish and the British, the Catholics and the Protestants; it is also an issue in many other areas of the world where different religions fight for superiority and everyone ends up losing.

A brilliant read that will make you think and have you looking at the world around you with a slightly different perspective, or it did for me anyway.

The Cleanskin is book #45 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.

The Cleanskin is available through The Author People, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Laura Bloom can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her Website.

Thanks to The Author People 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading The Cleanskin so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what our readers think.

The next stop on The Cleanskin Blog Tour is Carpe Librum, Friday 16th September, don’t forget to head over and check it out.

11 thoughts on “Blog Tour Book Club: The Cleanskin

  1. I have just finished reading The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom, and whilst this is not a book I would usually go for, I did find it rather interesting.
    The characters all have an element of mystery surrounding them, which kept me turning the pages.
    There’s Halley, who is a mother to Benny and a wife to Matt, and resides in a town not far from Byron Bay. She has a past that she wants to remain hidden. But when Aiden shows up after he hasn’t seen her for almost twenty years, we begin to uncover the past, and it is by no means pretty.
    Halley was once known as Megan, so there was a little bit of confusion at the beginning as I thought that they were two separate characters, but I soon realised that they are one and the same. With the timeline, as the dates span across a couple of decades, I initially found it was a little tricky to keep track of but as the story progressed, I got a better handle on it, and by the end, I felt it all tied in really well. This book tells a great story of a religious war, and the repercussions that occur as a result of involvement in it.

  2. would love to also read… My grandfather was Irish, and came over and settled in w.a. due, to what I am not sure, but know that he came from and was an Orange man whatever that was… so if a spare copy love to read and review….

  3. The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom touches on a number of subjects – politics, social class, marriage, family, and religion. But at its core, it is a troubling tale about manipulation, and how easy it is to get caught up in and seduced by a cause.

    It is also a stark reminder about consequences and life choices. How when you think you have covered your tracks and escaped your past, it can come back to haunt you…

    The Cleanskin is an unsettling book, and while I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Aidan, Dom and Megan/Halley, I also felt angry that they allowed themselves to become so easily duped. “You had to hope that the conviction that made them get involved with it all in the first place could keep them going…” As the realities of their lives are revealed however, you realise that it hasn’t.

    It was an interesting and compelling story. However, I found the frequent swapping between time periods; locations: Mullumbimby near Byron Bay, Sydney, England, Ireland even India; and different character’s perspectives: Megan/Halley and Aidan, quite a clunky way to tell it.

  4. The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom is a well written that ties a haunting past and the uneducated choices a naïve young girl makes, while believing she is making a difference to ‘The Troubles’ that Ireland is involved in.
    These choices come back to haunt her many years later after relocating and changing her name and dropping every she knows a holds dear. Halley formally Megan has spent many years recreating herself and finds a sort of happiness with her husband and son in a laid back country town in New South Wales.
    The Aiden reappears in her life, her secret past starts to unravel.
    The storyline travels backwards and forward and follows the story that brought Halley to today.
    A bittersweet story that has believable characters and facts. Bloom has tied it all together and will have you feeling many different emotions towards the different characters.

  5. Laura Bloom’s novel, The Cleanskin is a completely different book to what I’m used to but I found it a very interesting and an engrossing read nonetheless.
    I went into it not knowing too much about the history of the IRA, although I drew upon my brief knowledge of the unrest in Belfast in the 1970’s and the ‘war’ between the Catholics and the Protestants from reading a series by author Joan. Lingard, in my teens.
    The story is told through two different perspectives. Through the eyes of Aidan who returns to Australia to find Megan, and through the eyes of Megan aka Halley, who is ‘hiding’ from her past. This worked well as you get to know a bit more about the characters themselves and their thoughts but, the fact that it jumps regularly to different times and places can make it a tad confusing if you are not focussed.
    I came away,after reading this, feeling sad knowing that people can manipulate others into doing things that they don’t want to do with dire results. This was the case for Megan.
    Also knowing that no matter how hard you try, your past has a way of catching up with you. Even 20 years later, It’s only after dealing with the past and facing her demons, that Megan/ Halley is able to begin to have some sort of normal relationship with her husband and son.
    Laura Bloom’s knowledge of the politics and issues of this period is excellent and well researched. The war between the Catholics and the Protestants is not too far removed from cultural issues we face in our world today.
    Congratulations Laura on a very thought provoking read. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and The Author People for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.

  6. The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom, was a rather interesting read, and not a book I would normally have chosen, but am very pleased to have read it. It made me think of things that I have never really thought about in-depth before.

    The book is written in a setting surrounding the Byron Bay area. I was at first a little confused by the character of Halley who was once known as Megan, as I thought they were two characters but soon learned from reading on that they were actually the same person.

    I did find the book a little hard to get into and was struggling to continue but when I was about half way through it started to get easier and the story started to flow for me.

    The story covers a variety of areas namely family, religion and politics. But one thing that really struck me was how individuals could so easily be manipulated and dictated into doing things that they really did not want to do for a cause, without really realising that these may come back to haunt them in years to come.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to The Cleanskin and thank you to Laura Bloom for writing a novel that has really made me think in a different way.

  7. The cleanskin by Laura Bloom is a story of manipulation with elements religion and politics. Halley a mother living in Byron Bay is hiding from a terrible past which she can no longer escape. A blast from the past Aiden arrives on Halley’s doorstep, forcing her to reveal her past to her family. Halley formally known as Megan, was a young girl manipulated by peer pressure and brainwashed into joining the IRA . Halley must come face to face with the reality of her actions, the damage she caused was horrific, she was so naive allowing herself to become involved with the IRA without realising the consequences of her actions now she must face the truth. The story jumps from past to present, with multiple flash backs and memories, the frequent jumping of time lines and locations causes the story to become disjointed at times. The cleanskin by Laura Bloom is an interesting book filled with historical references and thought-provoking characters which many people will enjoy

  8. This story by Laura Bloom about Halley and her previous life before when she met & fell in love with a young Irish man in Australia. The events she went through becoming involved with the IRA as Megan. Symbolic of the choices made when caught up in political and religious pressures and subsequent events which hurt people in many ways. Aidan is sent to seek Megan out by his brother Liam, who has an alterior motive and finds she has blocked her self from the horrific events she was involved in. A completely different story to any I have read. Compelling, mysterious, intriguing, unsettling and upsetting is how I felt at many points in the read. A deep read but worth it. Laura is a writer I look forward to reading her stories in the future. Thank you for this opening of my mind.

  9. Thanks to Beauty & Lace for the chance to read & review ‘The Cleanskin’ by Laura Bloom.
    I have never heard of this Author, let alone read anything from her, and my initial reaction wasn’t too positive. I found this book really hard to get into at first, I found the writing was disjointed and jumped from one place to the next and I was reading parts and getting confused. I thought the story was very drawn out but started to peak my interest around the time Aidan and Halley started talking about what she did and then the story went on to Halley in the first person as she took us along her journey as she fought for ‘The Cause’, or so she thinks.
    The story is set in London and Byron Bay, Australia. Halley is a Mum, married to Matt and they own a local cafe. Halley should be happy, she has the perfect life but nobody knows, not even her family, who Halley really is and the monstrous past she has tried to run from.
    Enter Aidan, an old friend from Sydney, who is there to chase Halley down. Although Aidan knows Halley as Megan, his brothers girlfriend from their younger days. Megan’s past is tied to Aidan and his brothers, Liam & Dom. It is through Liam that Megan is recruited for ‘The Cause’ and travels to London with him, hoping she can do her part.
    I found this book boring and the story boring. There was no climax….it was just flat – even the so-called ‘major event’ that Megan was a part of, was not described in full, we sort of skimmed over the top and I really would’ve loved to have known more about that interesting section.
    Towards the end, I had the feeling there was going to be this massive twist but again I was disappointed.
    This review is a tad overdue as I could not get into the book, it’s a story I had to force feed myself. And yet I can see by reading so many other reviews that I am an odd one out.

  10. Thanks so much for the opportunity to read The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom. A fascinating book, I learnt much more about Irish politics than I ever knew before, having been too young to comprehend events at the time. I found the current day setting of northern NSW as a place of drifters and people escaping the past entirely appropriate. The widespread devastation caused one way or another on so many lives and in so many ways by the conflict is just staggering. I was hoping for a juicy mystery/suspense novel but got so much more in this insightful and well written book.

  11. The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom was a great read. An incredibly well written book.An interesting read full of twists and turns , sometimes not an easy read but well worth pushing through until the end.
    The story revolves around family , politics and religion.
    Set around the Byron Bay area the story revolves around Halley and her previous life with the IRA in Ireland when she was known as Megan.
    I would not say this is an easy read , at times quite the opposite , but as I continued on I found myself being more interested in the historical aspects of the novel and the life of Halley (“Megan”) before she arrived in Australia and realising the gravity of some of the things she had seen and been involved in.
    Thankyou for the opportunity to read and review this book Beauty and Lace

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