• Sue Curran

The First Emma Hannigan Novel I’ve Read


Sadly it was only after her death just a few short weeks ago, that I learned what an amazing woman Emma Hannigan was. My heart goes out to her family and friends at this sad time.

The purchase of Letters to My Daughters was an impulse buy as a result of a twitter appeal from other authors to get this new book by Emma to the #1 spot. Emma was too ill to promote the book herself so her friends and supporters took on the task.

The blurb, telling of family relationships and sisters with secrets caught my eye, especially as it’s the kind of story I like to write. I always find it interesting to read other styles of writing in this genre. Once I started reading Letters to My Daughters I couldn’t put it down; as it says on the Amazon page...

‘Letters to my Daughters is the spell-binding story about the complicated bonds between women -- daughters, mothers, sisters -- and how love and happiness comes in many guises’

This book is not full of gush and happy-ever-afters, even though the three sisters Rose, Jeannie and Beatrice each appear to be doing well financially. Rose has taken over the family interior furnishings business and lives in a luxurious house in Pebble Bay. Jeannie, her twin, is married to a wealthy plastic surgeon and lives in L.A. Beatrice, their older sister owns a couple of exclusive wedding boutiques. But wealth doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Their relationships with their mother are difficult. Martha, a busy midwife who is full of care and concern for her pregnant mums, but when it comes to her own daughters she has harsh words, impatience, and little time for them meant they were a lot closer to Nanny May.

The book begins with the death of Nanny May. The girls are devastated, more so when the find out that the letters she had written to each of them have gone missing. As the reader we know that their mother saw the letters when she found Nanny May’s body; angry when she read the unsealed letter to Jim, her husband, she put the letters in her bag. Martha makes her feelings clear to us that Nanny May was the hired help; yet still she was jealous of Nanny May’s relationship with her daughters. Throughout the book Martha holds onto the letters despite her daughters’ distress.

As a reader I found myself getting quite agitated whenever I read about Martha and the letters, worried she was going to destroy them and the damage that would do to her relationship with her daughters.

Martha really wasn’t a very likable character, yet throughout I found myself hoping for her to change, to see what she was missing out on with her daughters, and embrace her family, especially as the secrets that each of her daughters held were revealed.

While all the characters are well written and believable, the way the sisters’ stories played out, while not predictable, were pretty much as expected. Martha’s story wasn’t. This for me is what made Letters to My Daughters more than just ‘a good read’.

The more I know more about Emma Hannigan, the more I am in awe of this woman’s courage and determination. Writing became her passion and life line in 2006, quite by mistake. On discovering that she carried the cancer gene BRCA1, Emma chose to have a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed. Even though she had the radical surgery she developed cancer a year later. Emma was bored, and more importantly needed an outlet; writing fitted the bill. She loved to create characters and tell stories. Emma was a huge supporter of Breast Cancer Ireland, a fundraising campaign she started to raise money for the charity has raised over €100,000 so far.

Despite her remarkable battles, beating cancer ten times in ten years, Emma has written 13 books – for me that’s 1 read - 12 to go!

RIP Emma Hannigan


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