Nothing But Blue Sky is set in a tiny seaside village in Catalonia, where my husband and I have holidayed for over twenty years. I’ve changed the name of the village, but the rest of it is true to life, from the winding road that takes you over the mountain to the necklace of white buildings along the seafront and the tamarisk trees that line the small, emerald green cove. The novel hinges on that first, heart awakening glimpse of the sea from the road. There follows the first swim of the holiday and the ritual first drink on the seafront, as the long winter that led up to this point is slowly unpacked and defrosted. The holiday is the pit-stop in our lives, as it is for the characters of David and Mary Rose in the novel. It’s on holiday that they mend themselves, ‘marinating gently in a brew of salt water and sunshine’ and taking stock of what has come to pass in the year since they last visited.
If you go back to the same place every year, as David and Mary Rose do, you observe the changes not just in yourself but in everyone around you.
Without milestones time is slippery, as we all discovered during the lockdown, but the annual holiday is a marker buoy that ties it down. If you go back to the same place every year, as David and Mary Rose do, you observe the changes not just in yourself but in everyone around you. The woman who owns the restaurant on the seafront gets a year older every time. Her son, who was just a kid when you first met him, is suddenly in charge. The French family who occupy the house next door acquire new grandchildren and lose and gain spouses, year upon year. These people all found their way into my novel, as the character of David returns to the village without Mary Rose. Surrounded by his memories of their holidays together, David finds himself finally coming to an understanding of the woman he married.
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Nothing But Blue Sky is Kathleen MacMahon’s third novel. Her first, This is How it Ends, published in 2012, was translated into more than twenty languages, spent five weeks at the top of the bestseller lists in Ireland, and was a Richard and Judy Book Club choice in the UK. Her second novel, The Long, Hot Summer was published to much acclaim in 2015 and was also a bestseller in Ireland. Kathleen is a former radio and television journalist with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, and she lives in Dublin with her family.