Debut novel by Clonakilty author lauded for its touching love story

Clonakilty author Sara O’Donovan will launch her novel ‘Within You, Without You’ in Bantry Bookshop on Saturday, December 3.

The novel, published by Valley Press, has received praise from author and actress Carol Drinkwater who said, “This is a wonderful debut novel by Sara. She writes beautifully and there is such a sense of compassion for her characters.” Novelist Denyse Woods said, “This stirring evocation of love, Liverpool and the mysteries of time kept me gripped from the first exquisite word to the last.”

Set in Yorkshire, Liverpool, Sussex and Cork, it has been called “a wonderful and moving love story. An accomplished novel of joy, passion, loss and years of regret” by Cork novelist Tadhg Coakley.

‘Within You, Without You’ is a Sliding Doors-style story of Kathryn who thinks that she has seen her first boyfriend Ed on the side of the road on a dark and stormy night. However someone doesn’t just reappear like that. Not when they died twenty years ago. Uncovering long-buried memories of first love and its devastating loss, she returns to her past to try and rewrite her present, discovering that reality isn’t what she had been led to believe.

Marketing manager with West Cork Music and manager of the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry, Sara says that it is thanks to the festival that she came to write her debut novel. 

“A number of years ago, I freelanced as an equestrian journalist and wrote a book called ‘Horses of County Cork’ before turning my hand to fiction. I met an editor at the West Cork Literary Festival who encouraged me to develop a recurring thought I’d had and that thought became the opening of ‘Within You, Without You’.”

“The journey to publication hasn’t been straightforward,” says Sara. “Rejections are part and parcel of it and there did come a time when I wondered if I would ever get a yes. But nearly a year after I started to send it out, the novel was accepted by Valley Press, a small independent publisher in North Yorkshire. It felt particularly fitting as the book is partly set in the Yorkshire Dales.”

Being able to set her novel in much-loved locations has been one of the enjoyable aspects of writing a novel. 

“To be able to spend time in my favourite places, both physically and in my imagination, was a treat. The Yorkshire Dales and Liverpool in particular are very special to me and so I loved having the freedom to place my characters there.”

The novel also touches briefly on the world of horse racing, which isn’t surprising, as Sara’s background is in racing and show jumping. She grew up  on the south coast of England where her parents – her father is a former jump jockey who comes from Leap – worked for a racehorse trainer. An English degree was followed by a year as racing secretary with the Queen’s trainer before she moved to Ireland.  “Now that we have two young children, as well as horses, life can be hectic but I enjoy the balance of writing and horses,” she says.

‘Within You, Without You’ is available from Valley Press (,  local bookshops and Amazon.

WCP Staff

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