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Posted April 12, 2014
This book could be described as an historical novel with a touch of romance. It portrays many aspects of traditional Irish culture: its poverty; its aristocracy and peasantry, each dependent on and resentful of the other; a Church that sins and seeks forgiveness, that oppresses and saves. The reader can almost smell the stench of the blighted potatoes, feel the roll and hear the sounds of the immigrant ships and sympathize with the rebels while understanding the squires too. We are torn by the tangled romances, the despair that leads to drink and are uplifted by the hope of a new land.
Author Joyce McDonald skillfully works the native dialogue and background into the story. I love the way she draws us into Famine Era Ireland and pulls us along as they find their way, through perseverance marred by tragedy, to new lives in a New World. It is a cliché to say that you could not put it down, but I really wanted to see how the characters’ lives turned out.
As I read through this my emotions rose and fell, not like the surge and crash of a roller coaster, but more like the rock of a vessel on moderate seas. At times the author gets into some themes that I would like to avoid, but they never dominate the story. When we want to run away she takes us by the shoulders and gently turns us to face the history that is our heritage, with its shame and glory, its heartbreak and triumphs. Thanks Joyce!
Posted March 2, 2012