By Fiona Lee
These three books all tell a story of heartbreak, trauma, loss and three strong and very real women who, despite all their emotional and physical battles with life lived to tale their tale. Stark accounts of serious and harrowing issues are addressed so intimately and honestly that your heart will ache with empathy, or familiarity, but feel enriched by the complex characters and interactions that are filled with spots of humour and jabs of life’s painful truths. Think Bridget Jones mixed with Sylvia Plath!
All three women’s stories begin with a breakup with long – term boyfriends they truly loved and follow with how they coped with this loss and built themselves up again.
Out of Love by Hazel Hayes
This book is unique in the way that it is a story about a breakup, told in reverse. It begins with the narrator’s boyfriend coming to pick up his stuff from their apartment after ending a four-year relationship, and how she has coped since.
Each chapter delves into the past of their relationship, eventually concluding with the exciting moment they first met. This innovative way of storytelling depicts the realities of a relationship and lets the reader join the woman in experiencing the heartbreak and reflecting on all the bad moments, all the great moments, and debating “Did we ever truly love each other at all?” Hazel was born and bred in Dublin so I must celebrate her writing for being unapologetically Irish with her references, colloquialisms and nostalgic love letters of the Dublin coast, picking out films in Xtra-Vision as a child, and coming home to a sweet smelling stew made by her Mammy . It sparkles with wit, honesty and is a wonderful read!
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Emotional and sexual abuse, drug abuse / alcoholism, grief and mentions of suicide.
The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary
This is the most light-hearted, romcom style of the books listed so if this is more your type of read, this book is for you. It tells the story of Tiffy, who moves into a flat share after her gaslighting boyfriend breaks up with her, and how she escapes this toxic conditioning of doubt and insecurity.
However, it’s not the typical flat share with housemates. Leon, a night nurse, sleeps in the flat while Tiffy is at work, and she gets the run of the place the rest of the time. Hopefully a not so typical situation that highlights the housing nightmares for modern metropolitan dwellers! This man also happens to be very handsome, kind, and happily exchanges notes via their countertop with Tiffy, building their relationship long before they ever actually meet.
Add in demanding clients, obsessive exes and brothers wrongfully incarcerated, this book won’t leave your hands until you finish it. It’s full of humour and sweet, awkward moments, plus it depicts the realities of an emotionally abusive relationship and how that can negatively affect the mental health of the victim even after the relationship ends.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: gaslighting, body – shaming, anxiety and emotional abuse
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
After a confusing break-up, labelled as a ‘break’ with long-term boyfriend Tom, Queenie struggles to get back on her feet. After years in a relationship, the dating scene is pretty foreign, and trying to navigate men who treat her like nothing but a sex object and always seem to be very casually racist,
Queenie’s confidence and self-worth depletes rapidly. She also must deal with problems at work, childhood trauma, financial strain, decrepit living conditions, and, most exhausting and upsetting of all, daily encounters with racism and dismissive attitudes towards the Black Lives Matter movement, so it’s a rough time for her to say the least.
This book illustrates real issues such as every-day racism, the stigma against mental health and therapy and toxic sexual and romantic relationships. It is darkly funny, clever, heart breaking, and depicts the perspective of a black woman navigating life in the UK with obstacles every step of the way. This is an utterly essential read!
TRIGGER WARNINGS: sexual violence, mental health, miscarriage, childhood trauma, graphic sex,