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The Girl from Galloway: A stunning historical novel of love, family and overcoming the odds based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Set in Ireland’s nothwest county of Armagh during the reign of Victoria in 1845, this story follows the life and struggles of Hannah McGinley, wife of Patrick, mother to Rose and Sam. Born in Scotland to a small and successful farmer, Hannah’s husband Patrick is a traveling laborer, leaving with many other Irishmen in need of work who travel to harvest and work farms for owners whose sons have moved on, or need help finishing the harvest. She’s still finding the contrast between her childhood life and the one she leads now, especially as all of her family are now scattered ‘to the wind’ and her little cottage is a bit out of the way. But there are bonuses, just up the hill is her husband’s Aunt Mary who is able to provide butter and milk, her handwork on napkins provides a steady (if small) income. But this is a time of little for many: little food, less opportunity and even less money. Hannah’s children attend the local ‘hedge’ school, run by Daniel. A blind man with a knack for ‘seeing’ things that one might not expect, and a regular slate of visitors to his cottage who listen to his stories and share their own. Quite unexpectedly, his assistant teacher at the school is soon to be married, and Daniel needs help: two people have come to mind. Hannah with her knowledge of English, her ability to read and write, and her camaraderie with Daniel and Jonathan, a young man who claims his desire is to join the priesthood and help out where he can. With Daniel’s ability (and reticence) to display his English skills, he needs the help – but Hannah can serve to help gain a measure of the young man, and perhaps they can continue the school. It is at this point that another young man approaches, serving as the ‘information gatherer” for the Quaker Friends Society: having heard of the deprivations and poverty, they are looking for information and avenues in which they may be of help. Quickly this young man has ideas and information from Hannah, and their friendship takes its first tentative steps. Full of the struggles of those who were most reliant on their small kitchen gardens, available work and the island staple of the potato, the story takes all of the perspectives: the worries from those who have little enough to share but want to do what they can for others, managing and finding ways to bring in donations and provide the children in the school with other options, and more than a share of personal tumult, the tale draws the reader into Hannah’s life and her own concerns, even as the government (read Parliament and the English landlords) seek to blame the locals for their own lack of opportunity, poverty and starvation, and watch as many are forced into workhouses, to emigrate, or simply starve in their homes in desperation. Intriguing as the school with its fifteen pupils is seeking to give the children more options than were ever offered their parents, and providing a little beacon of light as the characters come together to help, support and celebrate one another as they weather the famine of 46. I received an eArc copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The books two main characters are Hannah McGinley and her husband Patrick, they live in Donegal Ireland with their two young children. The story is about life in Ireland in 1845, Hannah's life as a wife and mother. Also her relationship with her friends, neighbors and how hard life in Ireland was during this very difficult at the time. The cottage school her children attend was threatened with being closed and the story is based around how Hannah helps to keep the school open and feed hungry families during the famine. I of course have read about the great Irish famine, the failure of the potato crop due to disease and the book is set during this time. I had no idea that Irish farm workers went to Scotland, worked for months on farms digging potatoes and spent so much time away from their families. Then they returned home and struggled to find other work as many of them farmed land that had poor soil it didn't grow enough food to feed their families, they needed to earn money to buy extra food and pay rent. This is the basis of the story is about how Patrick would be away working at Hannah's fathers farm, how Hannah and her children coped with him being away. Why didn't Hannah's dad a widower ask his daughter and her family to live with him in Scotland and Patrick help him with his farm? I gave The Girl From Galloway 3 stars and I look forward to reading The Teacher At Donegal Bay later in the year.