by Jo Thomas
The story begins with young Fiona Clutterbuck emerging from a police station somewhere on the windswept Irish coast shortly after crashing her hired camper van into the sea wall. Not a very auspicious start to her honeymoon, particularly as she was alone at the time, her erstwhile husband having left her before the ink was dry on the marriage certificate. It is fair to say that this was not the way Fiona, or Fi as she prefers to be known, had planned to spend the first few days of her married life. So, here she is, stranded heaven-know-where with no money, no transport and no clothes. Could things get any worse?
The answer has to be yes, or there wouldn’t be a story to tell. Fi’s salvation comes in the shape of the local oyster farmer Sean Thornton. When he offers her a job as his “girl Friday” she leaps at the chance, seeing a way to put a roof over her head and earn the money she needs to move on from this back of beyond town. But it is not as simple as that. Life on an Irish oyster farm is not what she is used to at all and the locals aren’t the friendly bunch she might have hoped for.
However, over time, attitudes change and she soon finds herself very much at the heart of the community, much to the annoyance of her new employer who’s relationship with the rest of the town is just one of the mysteries Fiona has to unravel.
The Oyster Catcher is a light and easy read. It has all the elements you expect of a modern romantic comedy – the initial animosity that slowly but surely becomes something much deeper; the misunderstandings and unspoken desires that lead to an inevitable separation before disaster strikes, bringing our two erstwhile lovers are thrust back into each other’s arms where they can at last open their hearts and come together at last.
And whilst the formula is predictable, the story of Fiona and Sean is told with a gentle wit and skill that mark Jo Thomas as a writer to be watched.
The book is about more than just the budding romances of the characters involved, it is a journey of discovery, of facing fears and learning to trust in others. Through each other, they face their pasts and are able to shed some of the excess baggage that they have carried with them for far too long. The Oyster Catchers is an encouraging debut that introduces a promising storyteller. I look forward to reading more.