Genre: Family saga
Similar to: I’m not sure as this isn’t a genre I usually read. Angela’s Ashes maybe?
Could be enjoyed by: Anyone who is interested in multi generational, heartfelt stories
Publication date: 30th January 2020
Full disclosure – I read this book because I met the author at my local library and she was lovely enough to gift me a free copy. So, although Keep The Close is not my usual fare, I decided to give it a go and I have to say was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thank you Betty!
The book starts with the early life of Robina in her hard working rural Irish family. Robina is a fascinating character – a charming dreamer who is also a tiny bit magical. She moves to Liverpool to study nursing which brings a culture clash so abrupt that innocent Robina is left not knowing which way is up. She meets Moses, falls in love and begins her happily ever after – except that life doesn’t work that way.
I loved the way that although I’ve referred to the book as a family saga, it has a bleaker, more realistic edge which made the story feel more true to life. It could have been quite one dimensional – a tale of two soulmates finding each other and starting a family – but the plot is far more complex and nuanced than that. There’s a lot of elements at play; an interracial relationship at a time when that was very much frowned upon, immigration, poverty, religion, mental health issues, racism… it’s all woven into a storyline which spans a lifetime.
I really liked the characterisation in this novel, especially the main protagonist Robina. Each individual in the book has been really well depicted, so much so that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t based on real life events. I liked how human everyone was, often making bad decisions for good reasons and frequently getting things wrong! What really shone out though was the love that the characters had for each other and the close family bonds which kept them together – even when they were physically far apart.
As the book progressed I became more and more emotionally engaged with Robina and her family. Even though the ending wasn’t what I expected AT ALL it again felt very realistic and tied up all of the loose ends.
The only criticisms I have for Keep Them Close are that the cover is quite misleading – I think it makes it look like a gothic horror story rather than a family saga and I got a little bit annoyed by the use of quotation marks around every colloquialism. I’m all in favour of using dialect but my own personal preference is if it doesn’t have speech marks round it.
Overall though I very much enjoyed reading Keep Them Close and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading true-to-life novels about family and relationships.
Four “Is this real life?”s out of five.
Perfect for lockdown reading – heartfelt, comforting yet somewhat unexpected.
Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Betty Rose the author. It was so lovely to meet her and very kind of her to give me a copy of her book. Thanks Betty!
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