Book Review: New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan
I’ve never been to Newfoundland, but I feel as though I would know what to expect after reading this book - even though it’s set in the mid 1980s, the sheer character of Little Cove, population hardly anybody, comes across strongly. From the ‘hookers’ - four older women who get together to hook rugs and gossip - to the high school kids just looking for a way out into the big wide world, to the Catholic priest doing his best to impose strict morality on the entire town, everyone feels so incredibly real.
While there is a romance here, I’d call this more women’s fiction than romance because the heart of the story is Rachel’s emotional journey. Arriving in Little Cove to take up the position of French teacher - after her predecessor ran off with a priest - Rachel is up against it from the beginning as several people make it clear they think her job should have been filled by a local. She finds everything about the locals somewhat incomprehensible, from their own dialect to their habit of drinking condensed milk in their tea or coffee. She has a good heart, though, and ultimately that’s what leads to her winning over even the biggest cynics, as well as finding love in the process.
This is charming and gentle, and oddly, I don’t feel like it would have been all that different if it had been set today (pandemic excluded) rather than in the 80s. The issues faced by people in a small town remain the same (teen pregnancies, dangers from the environment, hurtful gossip). The only thing that really anchors it in the time period are the pop culture references - the books they are reading, the music they listen to, and the absence of the internet and mobile phones. Having been in my teens in the 80s, I found it gently nostalgic, but I’m not sure how readers under 35 or so are going to relate.
I did really enjoy this; I liked Rachel and I found the whole story both believable and charming. The story could probably have done with cutting a character or two - I did lose track of who a couple of side characters were - but overall, excellent. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.