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Girl on the Leeside by Kathleen Anne Kenney

Girl on the Leeside by Kathleen Anne Kenney
Pub. Date: June 20, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Nan A. Talese!)
Summary: Siobhan Doyle grew up with her Uncle Kee at their family pub The Leeside, in rural Ireland. Kee has been staunchly overprotective of Siobhan ever since her mother’s death in an IRA bombing, but now that she’s an adult, it’s clear that in protecting her Kee has unwittingly kept her in a state of arrested development. The pair are content to remain forever in their quiet haven, reading and discussing Irish poetry, but for both Siobhan and Kee fate intervenes.

A visiting American literary scholar awakens Siobhan to the possibility of a fulfilling life away from The Leeside. And her relationship with Kee falters after the revelation that her father is still alive. In the face of these changes, Siobhan reaches a surprising decision about her future.
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Coming-of-Age

The Irish countryside, ancient poetry, a whirlwind romance that spans an ocean – what’s not to love, right? Unfortunately, Girl on the Leeside couldn’t stand on its seriously gorgeous imagery alone.

When Kee’s younger sister Maureen died in a bombing, he was heartbroken. If only he said said this, done that, but he knew Maureen saw no life in the Leeside and her free spirit ultimately led to her death. What he didn’t know was that his sister had a little girl, a girl Kee was now the guardian of.

As Siobhan grew, the two became ever closer, each holding on to their sole relative. For Kee, that meant keeping his niece on an extremely tight leash – at 27, Siobhan hasn’t traveled out of their tiny village more than a handful of times. However, one summer and two men, an American professor studying ancient Irish poetry and a British soldier claiming to be Siobhan’s father, change everything.

I really wanted to love this one and I wasn’t joking about the beautiful writing. I truly felt like I was there; I could see the travelers’ caravan, I wandered the rooms of the pub. Kenney has a way with words and her descriptions were breathtaking. Sadly, the characters – namely Siobhan – were the story’s downfall.

My issue with her character came from just how sheltered she had been. I can get behind an introvert – hey, that’s me! I can get behind a character that might have bloomed a little later than the rest. But Siobhan…she went a step too far. This woman is 27, yet throughout the entire novel she acts (and is treated) like a child. In one chapter a close family friend passes and she’s genuinely surprised that grief hurts. She doesn’t understand what love is or what flirtation means. I highly doubt someone could be nearly 30 and be that naive – especially someone who lives above a pub!

Because of Siobhan’s innocence, the romance came off as creepy rather than inspiring and swoon-worthy. Tim is an American professor whose focus is on ancient Irish literature and poetry. Kee’s practically an expect on the subject, a passion he shared with Siobhan. Almost instantly Tim is attracted to Siobhan and she is equally as fascinated with him, though for her, it seems to be more of an interest in someone new in town, someone from a country she’s never seen. He’s divorced, she’s never so much as held hands with a boy. When she begins having feelings for him, she’s curious about love and wants to ask Tim about his ex-wife: does he still care for her, does he miss her? She’s constantly described as being child-like and made Tim seem so much older to the point where reading their interactions completely took me out of the book. Ew.

Siobhan’s father, the poetry, an arc where she tells a huge lie to Tim in order for him to like her, it all took a backseat to her character and I was so disappointed. Although Kenney’s writing and her vivid descriptions of the setting with gorgeous, Siobhan’s extremely sheltered innocence was more than a little hard to believe and had the romance coming off as gross and inappropriate rather than the sweet story it was meant to be. I’m sad to say Girl on the Leeside didn’t work for me at all.

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