The Paper Bracelet by Rachael English
Publishing Date: 9th July 2020
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 496
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Every baby’s bracelet held a mother’s secret…
For almost fifty years, Katie Carroll has kept a box tucked away inside her wardrobe. It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland home for unwed mothers in the 1970s. The box contains a notebook holding the details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets.
Following the death of her husband, Katie makes a decision. The information she possesses could help reunite adopted people with their birth mothers, and she decides to post a message on an Internet forum. Soon the replies are rolling in, and Katie finds herself returning many of the bracelets to their original owners. She encounters success and failure, heartbreak and joy. But is she prepared for old secrets to be uncovered in her own life?
In “The Paper Bracelet” we are introduced to Katie Carroll who, following her husband’s death, decides to revisit her memories. She has kept a box with paper bracelets of the babies that were born in a mother and baby home where Katie used to work. Now she wants to reconnect those babies with their mothers who were left with no choice but to give their children away for adoption. With the help of her niece Bath, they both embark on a mission – what they don’t know is what this mission is going to bring them. Are they ready to deal with all the pain, hurt and unfairness?
It may sound impossible but it was my first Rachael English’s book and after reading it I’ll be looking into her other books, that’s for sure. Her writing style is beautiful, calm and steady and she writes with a heart. And the research is done really well, not a wonder, with the author being a journalist and interviewing women from a mother and baby homes in the early nineties, so she truly knows what she’s writing about, and you can see it in every word.
The author has chosen a difficult, emotional and upsetting topic to write about but I can assure you that she has done it justice.
It is a dual – time novel, telling the story of Katie now, interspersed with events that happened in 1950’s in one of Ireland’s mother and baby homes. Even though this house is fictional, there were plenty of them in Ireland. It is amazing to think that such things really happened, and not so long ago! You had a feeling that you are back to ancient times when, in fact, it was already the twentieth century, yet still the pregnant girls were treated as if they belonged to a second category, even though they were often victims of a violence themselves they were perceived as sinners that should pay for their, and only their, mistakes. Awful, especially when you realise that it really wasn’t that long ago!
There was a bunch of diverse characters in this story but it was somehow hard to connect with them and I was not as moved as I probably should have been by their stories. They were not as complex as I’d like them to be, they felt a bit superficial and soooo nice, a bit more depth would be brilliant.
The book started very well, promising to be an exciting and heart – wrenching read. However, later on, it lost its impact a bit and I couldn’t engage with the plot so much. No idea what was the reason but it felt a bit flat. But then it picked up again and the last third was an emotional roller – coaster read filled with events and surprises and the final twist that I absolutely didn’t see coming. It really took me by surprise – maybe because I haven’t been expecting any other twists, as the book was full of them.
This was a sad and heart – breaking book but I wasn’t completely involved in it, didn’t engage completely with the characters and events. Not sure why, it was probably my fault as I am actually somewhere else with my thoughts, but I of course appreciated and enjoyed the novel. It is a thought – provoking book and I personally think those women’s untold stories can’t be forgotten. It is a very important book and at least because of its importance – but also because it is a wonderful, gentle story – I will for sure shout about it. Truly recommended.
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