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Tuesday, 9th July 2019

Nicola’s new novel inspired by grisly events in Laurence Street

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Drogheda author Nicola Cassidy with her second book 'The Nanny at No. 43, which is to be launched in Waterstones in Drogheda on Thursday.

“I wanted to try and explore the mind of a woman who could kill babies" 

Drogheda Author Nicola Cassidy is to launch her latest book, The Nanny at Number 43, this Thursday evening in Waterstone's bookshop in Scotch Hall.

To add to her excitement actor Colin O'Donoghue, best known for his role as Captain Killian “Hook” Jones in the fantasy TV series Once Upon a Time, who is also from Drogheda, has agreed to host the event which is open to everyone. 

The inspiration for The Nanny at Number 43 came asNicola took a local history walking tour of Drogheda and the guide spoke about a young mother who had killed her new-born baby and hidden the body in a suitcase under her bed at the turn of the 19th century.

Deciding to research the issue, Nicola discovered that infanticide and the abandonment of babies was common throughout the 1800s in Ireland, as women struggled to conceal unwanted pregnancies and deal with the stigma of illegitimacy.

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“I was fascinated by this society,” says Nicola, whose first historical fiction novel December Girl was a number one Amazon bestseller and reached the top 50 overall UK chart.

“When I looked into it, I found numerous accounts of babies being concealed, hidden, abandoned to perish and in the worst cases, locked into suitcases and stored out of sight.

“One child, had even been found alive and its mother had been going out to the ditch to feed it. They were very, very sad cases and it’s what inspired the opening scene in my novel.”

It was the suitcase story and the finding of a newspaper advert from 1880 that formed the plot for The Nanny at No. 43, which follows the case of a mysterious woman arriving to take up a job as nanny for a new-born baby in Drogheda, while twin babies are discovered buried in a suitcase in a back garden in Dublin.

“I was very touched by that advert,” says Nicola. “It read; Wanted, Respectable Woman for Motherless Child. Three Weeks Old to Bottle Feed It. I thought… what if the woman turning up wasn’t respectable at all? What if she had dark secrets to tell? What if she was a child murderer?”

While the novel is fiction, Nicola has set her book at No.43 in Laurence Street, Drogheda, where the original advert was placed. “I wanted to try and explore the mind of a woman who could kill babies.

“What could drive a woman to do that – especially when they’d been left in her care? As a writer, I wanted to see if I could draw a character that the reader, in parts, could sympathise with. We are all complicated beings after all. Can we separate our actions from the people we are?”

For the answer to these and other questions you must read the book. The opening, which is open to everyone, takes place this Thursday (July 11) in Waterstone's bookshop in Scotch Hall at 6.30pm.

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