Author: Kate Kerrigan
It Was Only Ever You is the story of a different time, in two different places. We are taken back to the 1950s in both Ireland and New York. A time of dance halls, swing bands and the birth of rock and roll.
Kerrigan illustrates the close relationship between Ireland and New York in a time when immigration was prevalent and if you could find the fare there wasn’t much standing in the way of you beginning a new life across the ocean. The Irish in New York all settle in the same area, and it becomes a home away from home almost.
Patrick Murphy is a talented singer from a working class family in County Mayo, Ireland. He finds himself in a sticky situation that sees him offered the opportunity to travel to New York and chase his dream of becoming a famous musician. This could lead to the realisation of his dreams and he can’t say no, so he packs his things and leaves without proper goodbyes. The life he finds in New York is not quite what he had been led to believe but he is sure that he can find a way to achieve all he set out to do.
Ava Brogan is an Irish girl in New York, dancing her nights away in the dance halls and knowing she will never be the pretty one. Her mother is plotting to find her a husband and Ava couldn’t be less interested. Her build is all wrong and she’s come to terms with that, until the day she sees a prestigious designer who finds her the right outfit; the one that makes her feel beautiful and confident and glamorous.
Sheila Klein is also a New Yorker, though she comes from a different part of town. A survivor of the holocaust she has been raised in New York by her aunt and uncle and dreams of finding a star and making her name in the music industry. An industry that is still male dominated and which refuses to take her seriously.
The stories of these three characters are very different but of course they all cross paths throughout the course of the novel. I found the story to be engrossing and interesting. New York in the 1950s is not a period I am familiar with but Kerrigan takes us inside the birth of rock and roll, and into a time where the Irish were moving to New York in droves and not always the way they thought it would work when they left home. Instead of moving forwards into a new life they found themselves sleeping rough and paid a pittance while they worked off the debts they racked up with their employers for their passage. The poverty they faced in Ireland is nothing compared to what they arrived to in New York.
Ava Brogan is the daughter of an Irish American insurance broker who also does a lot of work with the poor Irish immigrants and she has inherited some of his philanthropic tendencies. Her paths cross with Patrick a few times, and she steers him in the direction of her father to try and get him out of the horrible position he is in at the Golf Club he has been working in since his arrival in New York.
All of the characters in It Was Only Ever You are deftly interwoven into each others lives, they all travel through their time in New York until a blast from Patrick’s past arrives to completely rock the boat and leave everyone in turmoil.
I was invested in this story and all of its characters from very early on. I wanted to know how it all came together and how it all played out.
In the first half of the book we switch from County Mayo to New York with regularity but the passage of time seems to be different in each place. Sometimes when we skipped from New York to County Mayo months seemed to have passed and the characters in each place were in slightly different times so the events didn’t quite match up. It took a little while to get used to but I think it also helped to build the suspense and keep the intrigue in the story.
It Was Only Ever You is a story of love, loss and following your dreams, a tale of the hard road we sometimes take to our happily ever afters and a lesson in the grass not always being greener. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone who loves the romance of times long past and the history of New York in the 1950s.
Thanks to Harper Collins Australia 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading It Was Only Ever You so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments. I look forward to hearing what they think.