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At 15, Cathy Quinn is a complex teenager living—and feeling trapped—in 1980s Dublin. As the book opens she discovers that her charming older brother Stevie, who's gay, is falling in love with the one boy in school whom she likes. Over her last two years of school, Cathy struggles with her dysfunctional family, school pressures, coming to terms with her powerful attraction to her best friend Jeanette, and leaving Ireland. "The Leaving" is a realistic yet lyrical portrayal of ...
At 15, Cathy Quinn is a complex teenager living—and feeling trapped—in 1980s Dublin. As the book opens she discovers that her charming older brother Stevie, who's gay, is falling in love with the one boy in school whom she likes. Over her last two years of school, Cathy struggles with her dysfunctional family, school pressures, coming to terms with her powerful attraction to her best friend Jeanette, and leaving Ireland. "The Leaving" is a realistic yet lyrical portrayal of adolescence and first love.
Above all, the novel offers an unflinching look at two siblings growing up in Dublin in the 1980s, when being gay was still taboo, and being different was not tolerated.
Gabriella West is also the author of the lesbian historical novel "Time of Grace," set in Dublin in 1916.
Posted March 30, 2012
“The Leaving” by Author Gabriella West is a cleverly and engrossing book set in working class Dublin in the 1980’s. The books leads us into the life of a young Cathy Quinn, a teenager who embraces and adores the close and reliant relationship she has with her gay brother – Stevie, two years her elder. West excellently portrays the downcast and sometimes depressing life in 1980’s Dublin and the limited choices in life, and its outlook for the young Irish generation of the time.
West is especially adept at capturing the complex, difficult and sometimes challenging choices facing a teenager in life. Cathy Quinn we find is an introverted character although extremely bright, she finds herself questioning everything around her from her family, education, friendships through to her very future options. The book is an intense and heart felt journey for the young Cathy Quinn, as she questions all that seems certain to her, only to discover it often leaves more questions then when she first started.
West poses many questions above the perceived close knit family in 1980’s Dublin. Cathy realises there is more to her complex and confusing inner world which is magnified by a dark family secret lingering involving her mother. This secret reflects much of what Cathy is battling in her young life to discover, the truth, openness and honesty she seeks but seldom finds in her world.
The more Cathy finds herself questioning her place and understanding of normal life, the more we are brought into her world, and we venture protectively, on her journey of self realisation and discovery.
Cathy meets the dysfunctional, humourous and attractive class mate Jeanette. Jeanette seems to be the key to Cathy unlocking all her doubts and the lack of confidence. Their bond and friendship becomes near addictive, however; as their friendship appears on the brink of ecstasy, one experience leads it to be shattered. Jeanette withdraws and leaves Cathy isolated and more hurt and humiliated than ever before. The unravelling of the deep and dark family secret seems to provide some answers however; Cathy starts to realise that she is different and no longer hostage to the parochial and pretentious culture that is Dublin, Ireland.
The departure of her brother secretly for England, and Cathy’s rejection of populist friendship, leaves her lonelier than she ever felt before in life. This loneliness and heartache and her family and friend’s abandonment of her, makes Cathy more determined to find her true self, and discover who she really is and her role in life.
Cathy is a deep, all consuming and complex character that is anything but predictable. Her decisions accentuate all the great possibilities and potential downfalls life can thrust upon one so young.
Cathy strikes up a close friendship with her brother Stevie’s AIDS infected housemate Paul in London. Paul is kind, friendly and talented person who only has a short time to live, but Cathy grows closer by the day with him. Will she leave Paul like others have left him, will she turn her back on the exciting possibilities London may offer and what about her family, will she reconcile with them the way her brother Stevie did?
“The Leaving” is the powerful and challenging story of Cathy Quinn. It is filled with many moments of captivating and compelling intrigue, discovery, introspection and reflection for all. This book will really resonate on an emotional and life level with any reader.
A highly recommended read.
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