The Boatman’s Wife by Noëlle Harrison



There was some dark secret in this western edge of Ireland that her husband never wanted her to find out. She might never be able to lay his body to rest, but she could gain some kind of closure by finding out who the man she married was.

When Lily married her soulmate Connor, buffeted by the sea spray and wild winds of her coastal homeland in Maine, she never imagined she’d be planning his memorial just three years later. Connor has been lost at sea in the bleak stormy Atlantic, leaving Lily heartbroken.

But as she prepares to say goodbye to Connor for the last time, she is shocked to discover a message to him that he never told her about:

Does your wife know who you really are, Connor Fitzgerald? Don’t ever think you can come home. Because if you do, I swear I’ll kill you.

Unable to bear living in the home she and Connor shared, Lily decides to find out her husband’s secret. She flies to Connor’s home town of Mullaghmore on the west coast of Ireland, a harbour town hugged by golden beaches and emerald-green fields. But when doors are slammed in her face, she begins to realise that she knows nothing about her husband’s past.

Connor’s grandmother, a hermit living on the cliffs of the wild Atlantic, must know the truth about her grandson. But when Lily tries to find her, threatening notes are pushed through her door warning her not to stay. Will Lily leave the darkness of the past where it belongs? Or will she risk everything to find out the truth about the man she married…

A completely heartbreaking story about the lies we tell to protect the ones we love. Fans of The Light Between Oceans, Lisa Wingate and Susanne O’Leary will lose their hearts to The Boatman’s Wife.

My thoughts

The story is told via a dual timeline told from the POV of newly widowed American Lily, who finds a threatening email on his computer and realises her husband may have a history she knows nothing about, and Irish Niamh, who comes of age during an active period of the Troubles and becomes involved in the cause.

Niamh felt real and more fleshed out as a person, and the conflict over the border was very well told. The choices made and actions taken felt authentic and I could feel the ever-present undercurrent of danger that her situation put her in. In contrast, where I should have been feeling Lily’s anguish over becoming a very young widow and the tensions it caused within her family, I never quite warmed to her or felt any of that anguish.

This was a good story and I did enjoy it, but I definitely found myself enjoying Niamh’s parts more than Lily’s. I liked the ending.

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