When a war-weary Dr. Richard Buckley returned from France to his home in West Cork, he brought his best friend’s widow. Solange had lost everything in the war. Her husband, her family and all her possessions. Richard was fulfilling his promise to Jeremy to care for her now that the war was over. Despite the innocence of their platonic relationship, Richard’s wife Edith was even less pleased with him than she was before he hared off to war. So unhappy that one day she left her infant twins, her husband and her home and never returned. So it was that James and Juliet thrived, growing up confident in the knowledge they were loved by everyone at Dunderrig. But as they each followed different paths into adulthood, war again reared its devastatingly ugly head and the twins lives would never be the same.
Jean Grainger’s “So Much Owed” is poignantly beautiful, recounting the tragedies and triumphs of the Buckley family as they deal with the privations and separations caused by war. Grainger is a masterful storyteller of fact-based fiction, in this instance, that of WWII and particularly the role of a neutral Ireland. Her characters come to life on the pages as does her descriptive prose. She makes it easy to picture the rocky shores of the Irish coastline and smell the salty sea air, knowing that the icy cold water would literally take your breath away. Yes, Jean Grainge is a master storyteller. Five stars.
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