Awake in the night - by Shauna Mc Eleney
Shauna Mc Eleney has, with her debut novel “Awake in the night” – presented to the world a wonderfully constructed Sapphic Ghost story. I made very few notes as I read greedily along, Shauna’s voice and story construction happily lulling me into her world of house possession and wrongful killings. If I were to give you a throw-away one-liner, to sum up my reading experience, it’d be that the book is as intelligent as you would expect – and as romantically hopeful as only Sapphic novels can be.
The split timeline unfolding stories here revolve around two Sapphic couples, one established and one just starting out on their journey of self-discovery. The common thread both relationships find themselves based around is the house where their experiences collide.
I don’t want to spoil any of the threads by revealing too much of the plot, but events in the previous timeline set up hauntings for the new timeline to experience. The horror here is twofold – Shauna gives us glimpses through the hauntings of the horrific events that we must live through as they happen in the previous timeline, and the descriptions of the ghosts bring a feeling of threat and danger to those living in the present. Mc Eleney’s ghosts are the type of ghosts that wish their stories told – there is no immediate danger or harm delivered to the present timeline characters, yet the writing evokes a real sense of dread.
With a strong cast of supporting characters, I have to say that the beauty here lies in the relationships the characters have with one another. Shauna can write dialogue and has a fine eye for timing. A reveal at around the 60% mark, which could have been left until later, rightly stumbles the reader – I can’t say I saw it coming, but I can say the timing was well done – the reveal isn’t the point of the book – rather, it enriches the character relationships that already exist and adds empathy to the whole thing.
There’s a thread with a necklace that I think was clear, that was perhaps not as important to the story for the story to feel complete, there’s enough emotional involvement invoked through the two male leads in the book - one a drunken gambling priest, the other a psychopathic doctor – to be satisfied when the bad guy(s) get their comeuppance. The two main characters steal the book and have you rooting for them as each undergoes a transformation, one accepts a bitter hard truth about herself, whilst the other overcomes adversity, and stays true to her inner self.
I’m giving this a 5 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s for the smoothness of the storytelling, the eminently readable voice, the intelligence of the presentation of the story, and for the acknowledgment that I was completely invested in the characters' situations. This is a fantastic debut, Shauna. I look forward to reading more from you.
You can buy Awake In The Night, by clicking the appropriate Amazon link, below:
You can visit Shauna's website, HERE.
You can find Shauna on Twitter, HERE.
You can find Shauna on Facebook, HERE.
You can find Shauna on Instagram, HERE.
You can find Shauna on TikTok, HERE.