I Fnd My Tribe CvrAccording to the lyrics to the 1981 John Denver song “Some Days Are Diamonds”, some days are diamonds, some days are stones, some days the hard times won’t leave me alone. But after reading this month’s book, whenever you think you’re having crap day, you’ll realize that your days are ten times better than those of this month’s author. Also, you’ll learn to find good things in even the darkest situations.

Statistics from the Royal College of Nursing Website (, claim that Motor Neurone disease(MND) affects any adult at any age, but it is most prevelant between the ages of 50-70. The illness affects 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time. On average six people a day die from MND in the UK. There are around 2200 sufferers in Ireland. According to the Irish MND Association (, there are approximately 350 people in Ireland living with it at any one time. In 2008, Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice, became one of them when he was diagnosed. This month’s second book is “I Found My Tribe by”  by his wife, Ruth Fitzmaurice and was published by Chatto & Windus (  in 2017.

The book charts Ruth’s struggles in coming to terms with her film maker husband’s life changing illness. At the time of his diagnosis Simon was given just three years to live, two years later in 2010 he went in respiratory failure and was accidentally put on a respirator during an emergency procedure. Despite vehement medical advice Simon chose to remain on the respirator, thus altering not just his life but  the dynamics of his family’s lives . Through the books one hundred and ninety-seven pages, we follow their various moves around the country and across continents as they try to find any sort of treatment to help Simon regain a normal existence, from homeopathic medicine in the rural English countryside and to Australia, to experience the utter joys of living a care-free existence, if someone with MND can have a one. As well the everyday reality of ongoing hourly invasions of the family’s personal space by the army of ever changing live-in nursing staff who are on call 24-7 to help manage Simon’s needs.

At the centre is Ruth the stoic and embattled wife and mother, who must try to steady the ship and raise her ever growing family amidst this chaos. But even super heroes need a rock or at least a release from the daily struggle of soaking up everyone else’s woes. Finally Ruth finds solace and support in her “Tribe” the “Tragic Wives Swimming Club”, a group of women who have all experienced life changing events or personal tragedy and are drawn together to provide moral support while banishing their troubles by diving into the cold waters of the Irish sea and swimming off the beaches of Greystones in Co. Wicklow, on the East coast of Ireland. Following the advice of one of Simon’s carers, Ruth and the girls plan to re-energise their spirits by swimming naked in the reflection of a full moon. Can they finally bring themselves to do it? Especially when they discover that on the same night not a couple of hundred yards away, there is an open air cinema of on the beach, showing…. Yes, you guessed it, “Jaws”!!!

This book is primarily set three and a half miles from where I currently sit writing this review. So, I know Greystones very well, myself and my wife walk the dog around a large circular loop of the town on average, maybe twice a month. About three to four times a year we walk the 12km there and back along the cliff walk that link the towns of Bray and Greystones. I’ve also played badminton and socialised in there regularly, so I may have met or even seen Ruth and her “Tribe” taking a brave dip in the bracing waters around the beaches and coves in the town. I did find a connection with one of her stories, where she replays an encounter with a lone bagpiper serenading the women’s entry into the water. I had to laugh to myself as I and my wife have seen the same bagpiper practising on a secluded cove just outside the town. This was another part of the book that I loved, the challenge of trying to workout whereabouts exactly in the town the ladies were swimming. When she talked about the bagpiper, her previous descriptions of the cove all fell into place and I knew the location.

Ruth Fitzmaurice

Ruth Fitzmaurice (ThisArdee,ie)

Ruth comes across as a real earth mother, if I did meet her or had we ever passed each other in the street, she’d probably been dressed in tie – dye and natural fibres. Anyone who names their kids Arden, Raife and Hunter, are aiming for the hipster vibe. Let me clarify I have nothing against earth motherly types, my best friend is one. So myself and Ruth would probably hit it off quite well.

This book, was the surprise hit of last year and once you start reading it you will see why. It is emotionally charged and will leave the reader drained as well as elated, with Ruth’s insightful portrayal of her life with Simon and the family as they endure the ups and downs. Rarely does a book lay bare as completely as it this does, the struggles a person goes through to deal with things as fully as “I Found My Tribe”, regular descriptions of Ruth sitting in her car in a lonely car park, balling her eyes out into a box of tissues or sitting in the garden talking to a tree, hit me right at the core, because we’ve all been in that space at one time or another.

On the upside she does have a fantastic support group not just in the shape of her


Ruth, Simon and the family (Irish Examiner)

“Tribe”, but from Simon’s family. His mother’s attempt to lift her son’s spirits with regular gifts of fancy bright shirts, as well their unwavering search for a cure are a tonic. I was moved at times by its sheer emotionally charged storytelling, although regular readers of mine will know, that’s not very hard.

This is Irish author Ruth Fitzmaurice’s (@ruthoneilfitz) first book, although she has in the past worked as a radio researcher and producer, before meeting filmmaker and writer Simon. The spark that led to “I Found My Tribe” was an article Ruth wrote for the Irish Times in 2016 in which she wrote about her new-found passion for sea swimming. She lives in Greystones with family, as well as her “Tribe”. Tragically Simon lost his struggle against Motor Neurone Disease in October last year, four months after the book was published.

So, if you and your tribe are heading away for the summer holidays, then head down to your local book shop, snag a copy at the airport or download it. Whatever you forget to pack, let it not be this book.



whiteout_new_coverIf like me you’ve been residing in the northern hemisphere for the past six months, you are probably tiring of the long drawn out winter we are currently experiencing. Even now, as I write this in the latter part of April, I’m still wearing a padded jacket and gloves in the mornings when heading to work or going out in the evenings.  We are, at this stage in the year, sick to the back teeth of the Beast From The East, The Pest From The West and The Son Of The Beast, three storms that have dumped large amounts of snow  and freezing temperatures across the UK and Ireland in the past ten weeks. Here is Ireland at the height of the cold snap in February; the country shut down for nearly a week and there was a run on bread!!!!! Yes, I kid you not.  Unlike our Nordic neighbours and our north American and Canadian cousins, we are not good in snow. While our Icelandic neighbours, to the north, experience snow and sub -zero temperatures on a regular basis. This brings me to this month’s book review, its White Out by Ragnor Jonasson. Published Orenda Books (  in November 2017.

Two days before Christmas the body of a young girl is found at the base of the cliffs near an all but deserted village in the far north of the island. In fact, the only inhabitants are two middle aged siblings who are housekeepers for a local family whose large house stands atop a remote rocky alongside a large monolith of a lighthouse. They are also keepers for the lighthouse. With Christmas rapidly approaching and the snow relentlessly falling, Ari Thor Arason a young police detective is called by his ex-boss to accompany him to this desolate part of the island to help investigate the case. This throws Ari and his expectant fiancée Kristin’s plans for a family Christmas awry. As Kirstin wants to talk to a local man about her great grandfather, she sees it as a way of killing two birds with one stone.  When he arrives in Kalfshamarvik, Aria soon discovers that the girl’s younger sister and mother, also died at the same spot.  Then one of the witnesses who last saw the girl alive, is found dead. With ghost stories, family intrigue, the snow and early arrival of his first child hampering his investigation Ari has to find the killer before they strike again. Ari has his hands full on this investigation.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Star Tribune)

This isn’t the first Ragnor Jonasson book we’ve reviewed here at The Library Door. We liked his style of writing then and although I didn’t review the book myself at that time, I thoroughly loved this outing featuring his young detective. Ragnor paints a vivid and dramatic picture of this wild and beautiful land, with its green but also harsh landscapes. Set against this back drop the book moves fluidly and as I was reading in the midst of our bleak winter, I felt immersed in the story. This is not really a beach read as you’d never feel immersed in the fierce, driving wind and blinding snow, which add to the list of things hampering Ari’s investigation.

This is a book to be read, on the west coast of Ireland or up in the Scottish Highlands, when the wind is howling and the rain driving against the window and all you want is to be inside with a roaring fire.

This is Icelandic author Jonasson’s fifth book, his others include Snowblind, Blackout,


Ragnor Jonasson

Rupture and The darkness. He started writing from an earlier age at 17 he translated fourteen Agatha Christie Novels into Icelandic. This novel has a nod to Agatha Christie, with its limited suspect list and remote house location. He currently lives in Reykjavik with his wife and family, where he works and a lawyer.

The book is quite short at almost 210 pages, but the one things I did feel was a slight mark against this read, was that the case seems to get wrapped up pretty quickly once his young son arrives, as if Jonason ran out of steam at that point. But on a whole it’s a good read written by a true master of Icelandic dark noir. So, if you haven’t read an Ari Thor Arason mystery yet, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy and start reading, before his ninth book The Darkness is published later this year.



That They May Face CvrEvery year in March sees one of the biggest events of the global calendar, this is of course St. Patrick’s day, who is the patron saint of Ireland and all things Irish. So, while more and more countries celebrate the 17th of March by turning rivers, large iconic buildings and instantly recognisable monuments green; it also a time to reflect on what Ireland has given the international community. One of its biggest exports apart from Guinness and Arran jumpers is literature and recently the book club had the chance to read another well-known Irish writer. This month’s book is, That They May face The Rising Sun, by John McGahern, published by Faber & Faber in 2002.

The title may make you think, as it did with me, that it is set in some theatre of war, possibly in Asia, but it all takes place in peace time Ireland. The story follows the lives of Joe and Kate Ruttledge, for the first year after they have returned home from London to Kate’s home town in the border region of Ireland. The town is full of charming and quirky characters, each with their own problems and various idiosyncrasies. The Ruttledge’s spend most of their time in the company of their friends and neighbours from across the lake, Mary and Jamesie.

This book may not have much going on in the story-line, it charts the comings and going on in this small rural town-land, like a diary of sorts without chronological references. Just subtle indications to the gradual changing of the  seasons, but McGahern’s charming little tale doesn’t require a big block busting pacey driven plot to keep you engrossed. The characters who are all excellently drawn and diverse, latch on to you and keep the reader turning the pages. There’s the town bachelor, the local business man, who is nicknamed “The Shah”, who helps life move by oiling the cogs of the local economy, but can can’t let go of the reins of the business to his only employee and a local cripple who is left mentally and physically scarred by his tragic upbringing. At the centre of it are the Ruttledge’s, a happy go lucky couple who have no real cares in the world and the only real threat to their new existence is the offer of a job back in London, by Kate’s old boss.

John McGahern

John McGahern

It appears Joe and Kate met while working for the same company in London, but Joe seems to have left their former employer under a cloud which isn’t explained but is hinted at, now he farms and does consultancy work.

There is a lot of humour in the book and drinking too! Every single page seems to have the characters calling into see each other and having large glasses of Irish whiskey.  The characters have little or no malice in them, even where is a malicious intent, it is portrayed in a humorous almost darkly comical light. Take the towns eligible bachelor, who finally takes a woman to the alter but is really only marrying her for her dowry, cooking and cleaning skills. The reception is held in the grounds of a big local house and he, being quite unsure of social niceties literally takes her in the biblical sense on a hill in full view of the guests… This may shock some, but through the way Maghern tells the story, you are left with a shocked smirk on face, as if to say, did he actually do that?

This is not twee Irish, there’s nothing Darby O’Gill about it or any stereotypical

Irish RM Cast

Brian Murray & Peter Bowles

characters in the book, it had for me reminders of the Irish RM, a British TV series that ran on Channel 4 starring British actor Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born) and Irish actor Brian Murray (Brookside) back in the eighties. What you get from this book after reading it is a warm fluffy feeling as if you have just spent a week in the in a stone whitewashed cottage in the west of Ireland.


This Irish writer John McGahern’s sixth of seven novels, in all he wrote fifteen books the others were collections of short stories and one play The Power of Darkness. His other novels include The Barracks (1963), The Dark (1965), The Leave Taking (1974), The Pornographer (1979) and Amongst Women (1990). Born in 1934 he trained as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer. He won numerous awards both in Ireland and Internationally for his work and his book, Amongst Women was made into a four-part TV series for BBC. He died in 2006.

If there’s a downside to That They May See The Rising Sun, it’s a little confused as to what era its set. All the descriptions point to possibly late sixties early seventies. But there are references to one of characters watching the ITV show Blind Date which was hosted by Cilla Black between 1985 and 2003 and in another paragraph, they talk about the moon landings as if only happened the day before, which took place in 1969.

So, if you are looking for a charming, homely Irish book to read by an outstanding contributor to Irish literature, that is full of wit and will leave you feeling happy and contented at the end, while also itching to visit the emerald isle and kiss the Blarney Stone, this is the one for you. So, head in to your local book shop or download a copy. Open your drinks cabinet and find a nice Irish whiskey and settle down for a great read, especially with another cold snap planned for Easter period.