Second Sight is the second novel for Aoife Clifford, and I initially found it hard to get into because of all the characters, storylines and timelines but once I was in I was hooked.
Eliza has escaped Kinsale, a town where the ‘population … expands and folds depending on the weather and locals know never to drive near the centre of town on summer weekends’. She now lives in the city but has returned because she is working on a matter connected to the fire that decimated the town recently. She has just made partner in the legal firm she works in.
Her father who was the local policeman, still lives in the town, but following a car accident has been in a nursing home. Eliza doesn’t want to include a visit to her father in her plans while in her home town. Her mother died when she was four, and her sister, Tess, married her father’s successor at the station. The sibling rivalry between the two continues from their childhood into adulthood, the resentment simmering through the pages, their ‘conversations … always littered with landmines’.
The town is reeling from the impact of the fire on the lives of local townspeople and on property. Eliza is acting for the power company who are accused of being responsible. While knowing the eight people who died, being a small town, she finds ‘the only way to cope is to separate out bits of your life and keep them in solitary confinement’.
The book goes back in time particularly to the New Year’s Eve when the girls were teenagers. ‘Sneaking off from the community celebrations for their own private New Year’s Eve party at Cromwell’s Beach had been Eliza’s idea’. It is a decision she will come to regret.
Eliza is a great central character – feisty, showing how tough it is to work as in the lawyer for a woman still, but also needing validation, full of insecurities and flaws. Other characters with all their history, connections and secrets flesh out the story well. The book is full of guilt, regret, assumptions made, bad choices, and strained relationships that are stretched out over the book, coming to a satisfying resolution at the end.