It was love at first sight. They met on a street corner one blustery afternoon when her hat was blown off and landed at his feet. The young Catholic Belfast girl and the dashing Protestant Brit were destined to be together – that's what Alan Reed told Mary Ann Ward when they were both teenagers.

Alan was sent over to Northern Ireland from London during World War II. Mary Ann and her family had overcome the snobbery of being a Catholic family in a Protestant area. But then tragedy strikes the Ward family and they are forced to leave their fine house in the town and move to Mrs Ward's family's ramshackle farmhouse in Monaghan. Will Mary Ann and Alan's love survive this set-back?

Told in flash-back form Monica Tracey's debut novel is a wonderful look at life in Northern Ireland from the 1940s onwards. 'Unweaving the Thread' focuses, not on the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but on one girl's childhood in the province and her troubled growth into adulthood. Through the eyes of a growing child it looks at the familiarities and closeness of family life and the tragedies that beset the Ward family. Tracey manages to get the humour/tragedy balance just right – the funny bits are funny, the tragedy is tear-jerking. A stunning debut.

Joanne Ahern