Book Review – A Place To Belong by Cathy Mansell

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

When the nun-run orphanage in which seventeen-year-old Eva has grown up burns to the ground, she finds herself alone, without friends, family, or anywhere to stay.

Rescued from the rubble by the indefatigable Ma Scully, sweet-hearted Eva finally discovers the familial closeness she’s always longed for, in Ma and her nephew, Cathal.

Of course, Eva can’t just live off Ma’s goodwill indefinitely, and so she gets a job working on a local farm for a pleasant enough widower (with an undeniable soft spot for Eva), his acid-tongued mother-in-law, and a selection of farm hands who are obliged to keep their distance from the new, deeply naive farm-skivvy.

When the farmer’s errant son, a deserter of both the Irish and British armies returns home, he brings with him the means to crush poor Eva’s heart and destroy her hopes of a better future.

A sweet, romantic story, rich in imagery, I enjoyed this book. Set in Southern Ireland during the Second World War, it’s an interesting setting. We don’t hear all that much about Ireland during the Second World War (it is worth noting that although Ireland remained neutral during the conflict, plenty of young Irish men enlisted and fought alongside the Allies) and I was really excited to learn about the people at home, living their day to day lives, touched by the War but not in it.

The main character of Eva felt particularly realistic. A 1940s teenager with an inherent fear of what might happen to her reputation while simultaneously having no real understanding of the facts of life or the issue of consent, Eva felt very real to me.