I urge you all to read Before My Actual Heart Breaks, the debut novel by Tish Delaney. It is truly stunning – by far, my favourite read of 2021 (and so far I have read 67 books this year).
I finished reading this book this morning and I am completely gutted. I am so going to miss the very human, flawed, relatable characters, especially the protagonist Mary. Throughout the whole narrative I really invested in Mary; she made me laugh, she made me cry, she frustrated me, but she never let me down. Mary is a true literary heroine that deserves to be celebrated.
And Tish Delaney also needs to be celebrated – she is a truly stunning writer with a raw, unique, moving and extremely funny voice.
Before My Actual Heart Breaks can be described as a coming of age story; it can also be described as a bittersweet love story. It is the story of Mary, a young Catholic girl growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Mary describes her Mammy as a B.I.T.C..H. I describe her Mammy as a bitter, twisted, religious abuser. Mary’s love for her Daddy shines throughout the narrative, but so does her frustration at his weakness. I truly empathised with Mary’s frustration. Mary is young, intelligent and desperate to fly, to escape the sectarian violence and the hypocrisy of the Church. Yet in her search for validation and freedom, she finds herself powerless and her life changed for ever.
Powerfully set against the backdrop of the very troubled Northern Ireland, we the reader follow Mary’s life over a 34 year period. A farm wife with five grown children and a husband that has left her as she ‘blamed him when‘ she ‘failed to fly because it was him who clipped [her] wings‘. This may not sound like the most exciting read but believe me, it is. With Tish Delaney poignantly exploring the human cost of resentment, regret and loneliness while powerfully portraying the heart breaking devastation of the Troubles alongside the hypocrisy of both warring sides, as well as the hypocrisy of religion, I like many other people could not put this novel down. Interwoven with dry, dark Irish humour, Before My Actual Heart Breaks is a modern classic that must read. It is truly stunning (I have just realised I keep repeating this description, but then it is hard not to as Before My Actual Heart Breaks really is truly stunning).
Tish Delaney was born and brought up in Northern Ireland at the height of the sectarian violence and it clearly shows in her exquisite, darkly humorous pros. The references and details are so moving and powerful. Living across the Irish Sea, I remember being exposed to many of these violent marks in British/Irish history in the news. However my exposure was nothing compared to the people living within the sectarian violence day in day out. Mary’s raw narrative is so powerful in so many different ways.
I really feel that Before My Actual Heart Breaks is a book I will always adore. Already I am desperate to reread it.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of this stunning novel to mark its recent paperback release. However my main thank you must go to Tish Delaney for giving us all Mary and her lovely, complex, difficult brood of family and friends.
I truly loved every page of Before My Actual Heart Breaks.
To follow the Random Things Tours blog tour of this great novel, please see below.