Book Review: The Godmothers & Interview with Author Monica McInerney

Written by Julie Dickson

The Godmothers by Monica McInerney is a family drama novel set in Australia, England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Eliza grew up in Australia, constantly moving around with her troubled single mother, who entertained her with her elaborate stories. She was treated to annual holidays by her two doting godmothers. When Eliza was seventeen, her mother tragically passed away, leaving Eliza devastated.

Thirteen years later, still grief-stricken, Eliza embarks on a trip to Scotland to be reunited with her godmothers. Determined to find out more about the past, she gets caught up in another family’s dilemma and learns that there are two types of families—the family you’re born with and the family you make along the way.

The Godmothers is an enjoyable and addictive read. It is a character-oriented story about the secrets and lies that stem from familial drama.

Eliza is a relatable protagonist, and her grief for her mother is raw and real. Her godmothers Olivia and Maxie make mistakes, but it is clear how much they care for Eliza and her mother. An insight into their personal lives rounds out the story. The characters, right down to the secondary characters, are well fleshed out. Celine, Olivia’s demanding almost mother-in-law, and Sullivan, Eliza’s young flying buddy and newfound friend, have quirky personalities that are entertaining to read about and provide comic relief. It is evident how much development has gone into the creation of the characters and their intricate relationships with one another.

I love how the familial drama provides an element of mystery throughout the novel, as Eliza tries to unearth more about her family’s past. Pairing it with the characters’ relationship dynamic, it makes the novel a page-turner.

Monica McInerney paints beautiful pictures of the various locations in the novel, igniting a sense of wanderlust. It is well-researched and provides the perfect escape, especially due to the current travel restrictions.

The Godmothers is a beautiful family saga, filled with humour, warmth, and drama, which is perfect for fans of family drama novels.

I had the opportunity to interview Monica McInerney, and here’s what she had to say.

1. What was the inspiration for the story?

My long-time fascination with the secrets one generation keeps from another. My inspiration came from two personal stories coming together. One of my father’s sisters died in an accident on a farm. My father would stop talking about her whenever I came into the room. And, recently, my older sister’s best friend presented her with a pack of letters she kept during their friendship. She made her promise to destroy it so her kids couldn’t read it.

2. Did you write the scenery from travel experience or research?

I always research the locations I go to in my novels. I’ve been to all the places I’ve written about in my novels. The only one I haven’t visited is Antarctica, so I had to do a lot of research for that one. For this novel, I visited Edinburgh and the London and Irish settings and, of course, the Australian settings.

3. Which character did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved Eliza because it was her story. My heart was with her—it follows her as she breaks out of her shell and discovers the world. Sullivan was sheer fun to write. I had such a ball writing him and Celine, particularly when they were together.

4. What theme was the hardest to write?
The theme of how it is to grow up without a mother and the theme of loss and grief. I read a lot of memoirs and did a lot of research about men and women who have lost their parents. It was sad and moving and different from my own experience, since my mother is still present and I’m currently living with her at the moment.

5. What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
It has changed very much. I never know at the start what’s going to happen. I make it up as I go along. It makes it unexpected. The first draft is me figuring it out. After the first draft, I do at least ten drafts before I send it to my agent and editor. It had lots of subplots that I didn’t need. The first draft was twice as big. It’s a long process.

6. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
I have three main pieces of advice:
1) Read. Read all the time—that’s how you learn to write. Read as a reader and read with your writer’s eye. Every book is like a writing course for a writer. For example, if you get bored when reading a book, ask yourself why.
2) Write. Write every day if you can. Set yourself a deadline. I make sure to write 2000 words every day. You never get it right the first time. Don’t be downtrodden. You can’t make it better if it’s not in existence.
3) Edit. Look over it with fresh eyes. The editing process will make it better.

The Godmothers will be published on the 29th of September 2020 and is available for purchase here.

Julie Dickson is a Melbourne based writer and editor. She is currently studying a Master of Arts (Children’s Literature) at Deakin University. She is a hardcover book and journal collector and owns way too planners. You can find her on Instagram @juliedickson.writer

Julie’s work appears in the ForwardRetroTensionTabooIllusionHarmony, and Epilogue editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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