A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath

Review published on May 15, 2017.

I was looking forward to reading this book because it had a very positive endorsement by Joseph O’Connor, whose books I have enjoyed. He said it was ‘a beautifully written novel … a vivid sense of place and person’. Although I think it’s quite a good book, I would not praise it so highly. Like so many novels recently, it switches between characters, times and places. Set variously in Dublin, London and different parts of the USA, it follows the stories of Jasmine, Alison and Margaret, and it gradually reveals their connections to each other. In 1980s Dublin, Jasmine is desperate to become a female boxer but can find no-one willing to train a woman, until she meets George. He is a boxer himself, from Kenya and studying to be a doctor at Dublin University. As part of her training, she has to run and, as you might guess from the title, running is a theme in the book. Both Jasmine and Alison are running away from something or somebody. They both feel trapped by the expectations and stereotypes put upon them by others. Margaret is Jasmine’s mother and her story is slightly different.

I did find the storylines a bit confusing at times and I was a very long way into the book before I realised how Alison’s story fitted in. There wasn’t much variation in tone or voice between the characters and, to be honest, I’ve read much better books covering similar themes and issues. However, I don’t want to be too negative as it was quite well written and made a good holiday read. Not sure if there is enough in it for a good book group discussion though.

Maddy Broome 3/2

A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath
John Murray 9781473641754 hbk Jun 2017

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