Cover Image: Holding Her Breath

Holding Her Breath

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Member Reviews

An interesting book dealing with all sorts of family and other complex  relationships, including Beths relationship with herself. She learns and grows throughout this book, dealing with grief, guilt, love and self worth. I enjoyed this book, with its twists and turns, and would recommend it. Thanks to netgalley for an advance copy.
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Beth Crowe, an almost-has-been Olympic swimmer, starts at 20 her psychology studies at university where the fame of her famous dead poet grandfather, Ben, will effectively become the springboard through which she starts connecting with the world around her, making friends, starting relationships, and ultimately deepening her sense and knowledge of herself and her own family.

I really liked the swimming/poetry paring, as well as the way the storyline (Beth is recovering from a sporting burnout, her grandfather committed suicide by drowning) meanders in connections, parallels, divergences in unexpected ways, with suspense and tension administered with subtle humour and irony. It is a momentous year of discovery for Beth, a fragile yet strong, inexperienced yet increasingly surefooted young woman.

The writing is precise, descriptions create quickly a real sense of place and time, characters are drawn convincingly. I liked that many things are left implied, and that the obvious artistic decisions about symmetries in plot or character through the timelines are there to be enjoyed and allow you to step outside the confines of this story and go for a more personal interpretation.

Perhaps the actual revelatory crux is an easy way out, and makes the figure of the grandmother a rather more sinister character in her tyranny (yes, tyranny!!) but it also allows for a tangential discussion of very topical matters... 

There are loads to enjoy and discuss in this ambitious novel. Recommended!!  (I thank Penguin Books and Netgalley for the advance copy.)
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Ryan's writing style is gentle and sincere and it makes for an absolutely heart-warming novel, even when it delves into deep and heavy themes, in a delicate manner.
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This is a wonderful novel - held me entirely from the first page to the last. Clever and erudite without ever working too hard it tells the story of Beth - her own ambitions, challenges and hardships unmet and forced to be faced as she makes the steady transition into her own person - trapped and cowed to some degree, initially, by her family legacy. The very thing that will, in time, be the key to her release. 
Beautiful prose, smart, delicate storytelling (Are you a virgin? her halls' roommate asks her. Only emotionally, she replies - genius character summation/emotional deep-dive right there...), my only issue – and it's a small one – is that if felt that for Beth to understand anyone else's motivations, she seemed to have to experience something similar for herself first. 
Can't wait to see what Ryan does next. 4.5 stars - rounding up happily to 5.
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I couldn’t put this book down. There’s nothing quite like a story set in Ireland but this was extra special. Beth was the most likeable and endearing character. Watching her grow and develop from the very first chapter until that beautiful ending was so moving. She felt like a friend you’ve known all your life and you couldn’t help but root for her. 

Holding Her Breath is such a gentle and moving story with heavy themes throughout. The way the author handled Ben’s suicide was so respectful. She didn’t glamorise it. She didn’t make it out to be some shameful scandal, but wrote about it with care. 

The way Beth and Sadie’s friendship developed throughout the book was beautiful to follow. The friendships and relationships we find and lose in college have such an impact on the people we become so it was really refreshing to read a book that had both a toxic relationship (Justin) and one that made Beth stronger and happier (Sadie.) 

Holding Her Breath is one of my favourite books of the year so far. I feel so lucky that I got to read it.
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This book follows Beth, who's grandfather was a famous poet. Her grandfather's death shadows her and she feels as though those around her are interested in her for only one reason. Beth seems to struggle at university at the beginning of the book but slowly starts to ease into herself and comes of age in this brilliant book. 

I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. First of all, the friendship between Beth and Sadie was brilliant, I like how it wasn't likely for them to be friends as they are polar opposites but eventually the bond becomes very tight knit. I also like the relationship between Lydia and Beth. Lydia seems to keep Beth on her toes and I really liked seeing the dynamics between the two of them. 

Another reason I liked this book was the fact that the romance was not front and centre of Beth's life. Some coming of age books can be all about romance but this one was about Beth truly finding herself and helping her family find peace. 

I loved the twist of Lydia and Julie being lovers, as I never expected it. I wish we got to hear more about the two of them as it was a brilliant addition to the plot.

I rated this book three stars and that is mainly because I felt a little lost when I first started it. I wasn't sure where the book was heading and if I liked the direction it was heading in, especially Beth's affair situation. However, the last 100 pages definitely helped redeem itself. I think it was wrapped up brilliantly and I didn't finish it asking for more, I was very satisfied.
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Really beautiful book.  I loved the friendship between Beth and Sadie.  The back story of her family was absolutely wonderful.  I could taste the sea air and wanted to be drinking whiskey with her grandfather.
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I've read so many novels featuring young Irish women recently it could probably be described as its own genre, but this was my favorite of the bunch. Beth is a likable, nuanced, smart and interesting character and I loved the fact that she had issues, worries and ambitions of her own, rather than having her entire thought processes dictated to by a difficult relationship. I loved her grandfather's story too and would happily read a novel about Lydia. A triumph
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This is a razor sharp, insightful and funny coming-of-age story about complicated relationships, family and grief. Another wonderful Irish debut author to look out for!
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Holding Her Breath is a novel about family, growing up, and the impact of the past. Beth Crowe is starting university in Dublin with two things hanging over her: her somewhat failed time as a professional swimmer and the fame of her dead poet grandfather. Benjamin Crowe died before she was born, and the curiosity of others leads her to be drawn into trying to find out more about him, a tempestuous poet who killed himself. What she finds, however, is less about her grandfather, and more about herself and about her grandmother, who has always guarded his legacy carefully.

Though the opening of the novel felt quite similar to many others—a slight outsider starting university, not fitting in, and having a connection with a cool academic—it went off in other directions and soon drew me in. The dual themes of Beth's growing up and coming to terms with her own swimming and family and the unfolding of her family's past worked nicely together, showing Beth's need to deal with the past in different ways. Her friendship with Sadie was another good touch, showing how friendships can form and be supportive even when it seems like you have little in common.

The subplot about an affair with a postdoc interested in her grandfather is weird, but the narrative seems to know that, and it was refreshing that it wasn't what the plot revolved around, but more another episode that propels Beth on her own path. There was quite a lot unresolved by the end of the novel, but it answers questions too, and the 'coming of age' feel meant that it felt like it did suit not having all the answers, but just a sense of possibility for Beth, of maybe making another fresh start in some way.

This is another novel about someone starting university and feeling a bit lost, combined with a mystery surrounding a famous family member, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, drawn into both the family's past and Beth's immediate journey and bad decisions along the way. There were plot elements that I would've liked to have seen teased out a bit more, but it did also have quite a simple, poetic ending.
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Interesting book about a woman trying to find herself.  Character descriptions and figurative language were beautiful. I enjoyed it immensely and I highly recommend it.
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