After Helen by Paul Cavanagh

After Helen by Paul Cavanagh. Photo: PA Photo/Not That London
After Helen by Paul Cavanagh. Photo: PA Photo/Not That London

After Helen is a moving look at love, loss and the challenges of modern parenthood.

The story focuses on unassuming history teacher Irving who is trying to come to terms with the recent death of his enigmatic wife Helen, whilst also attempting to parent his increasingly wild daughter Severn.

It’s a situation made all the more poignant by author Paul Cavanagh jumping back in time every alternate chapter, so that the reader can witness the early days of Irving and Helen’s relationship and the circumstances in which they had their daughter.

While a constantly changing narrative can sometimes feel disorientating, here it works incredibly well, with the contrast creating suspense and anticipation, as well as giving insight into the complex motivations of each of the characters.

An absorbing and deeply touching debut, After Helen is a whirlwind of a novel that, once started, is incredibly difficult to put down.