The Teacher At Donegal Bay by Anne Doughty

Watch And Pray… It’s Alright

The Teacher At Donegal Bay by Anne Doughty is a poignant novel about love, life and loss. It is bittersweet as the reader follows a life that has been stifled.

The novel is set in Belfast in 1968 at the beginning of the troubles. Some characters are all inclusive. They see the person and not the religious label. Others are blinkered at best, filled with hate at worst.

A family is at the heart of the novel as we follow a twenty six year old married teacher. We hear her hopes and dreams and follow her interactions with her family and friends. A woman at this time was meant to marry and have children. If she did not, then questions were asked. It seemed incredible that a woman might actually want and like a career.

Relationships are complicated affairs. A mother tries to squash and mould her daughter. A husband wants his wife to be subservient to his wishes. Only a father really understands and encourages his daughter to dream. “It has to be you… leading the life you choose.” We have a one and only shot at life and we need to live it well. “All I ever wanted was you to be yourself.”

The landscape mirrors the feelings of a character. In the town, a character is stifled and held back, whereas in the countryside the character is truly free.

There is the theme of belonging. “The loneliness of feeling you didn’t belong.” We can all empathise the feeling of being lonely in a crowd, in a marriage, in a family – isolation in the company of others in a desolate place to be.

Money, power and status corrupt when they are pursued at the cost of everything. The richest, most successful people in the novel are not those with the most money but those with the biggest hearts.

The novel is about death – the death of relationships and actual physical death. Loss is all consuming. When those we love pass on, we wonder how the sun can still bear to shine. “Life goes on regardless” and that seems the hardest thing. In spite of loss, there is hope in the midst of sadness.

The Teacher At Donegal Bay was a powerful read focusing on relationships. Feelings projected from the novel and onto the reader. We ‘felt’ and ‘experienced’ life in tandem with the lead character who was extremely likable. Within the pages of the book, we find life and love and loss – and hope – hope for a brighter tomorrow. The sun will rise again.

I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

JULIA WILSON

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