“Guts and Heart and Soul” – Review of Lucia’s War in Books Ireland

Reviews are like buses, I declared on twitter yesterday, none for ages and then they all come at once! I’m delighted to link to this wonderful review of Lucia’s War by Catherine Murphy in Books Ireland Magazine. It is official – “review” is no longer a dirty word on this blog 🙂 I’ve been truly blessed with the critiques I’ve received for Lucia’s War and I’m really grateful for the in depth appreciation of the work and of Lucia’s character.

When a novel is in first person, it is inevitable that most or all the attention will fall on the protagonist. I would imagine if Lucia had corporeal existence and was reading this herself, she would be most happy with this, having a natural soprano’s desire to be centre stage! What I enjoyed most about writing her is that she eschews false modesty – when she’s good at something like singing, chess, or, um [insert spoilertastic thing here] she knows she’s good, and furthermore, there are enough damn people around to knock her without her joining in. But one thing I do love about this review is how it mentions other characters:

The secondary characters are great, Eva and Arthur in particular. Eva is all kinds of messed up. I loved Arthur’s advice, which to me almost encapsulates the book.


A perfect summary of poor Eva, and I’m so glad Arthur gets a mention. I have a soft spot for Arthur, he’s not a bad guy, he’s just trying his best to achieve excellence in an utterly hostile society and stuck with impossibly high standards. Unlike Robin, who says what he likes when he likes (pretty much) Arthur has to calculate every comment and action he makes, and it must be utterly bloody exhausting for him.

I also love this whole paragraph:

The book moves with a very clear sense of place. The settings are powerfully drawn and the details deftly bring the plot through London, Jamaica, France, Glasgow, each one holding their own with some wonderful background descriptions. Music is another consistent strand but the root is really motherhood, a thread of barbed wire running through the story. 

I’m really pleased about this, because I sometimes wondered if compared to White Feathers, a lot of Lucia’s War was in London, but I did find that the locations had a bit of variety and it’s great that came through. I think that’s important as otherwise a sense of claustrophobia can set in. (That said, Room by Emma Donoghue did fine!) And motherhood being barbed wire…oh yes, particularly when Lilian sticks her beak in.

And a final quote – as people know, Lucia’s War is a self-published book and the cover design was managed and planned by me in conjunction with Richie Cumberlidge, a designer with More Visual Ltd. That the cover draws in the reader is a wonderful vindication of high-end independent publishing, and I passed the kind words on to Richie, who did such a good job.

It’s a wonderful thing when the cover art for a book leads the reader so perfectly into the story as this design for Lucia’s War. Before even opening the book there is music, war, and Lucia herself. I love when a character beams from the pages. Lucia is strong, independent, difficult, stubborn, brave and gifted, and she has had to be all those things to get through her life. 

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