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The Naming Of Eliza Quinn [Paperback]

Carol Birch
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Aug 2006

This is an extraordinarily haunting novel, inspired by a true story. In the late 1960s, in the hollow of an ancient oak tree beyond a derelict cottage in Cork, were found the bones of a three-year-old girl. It was thought that they dated back to the time of the great potato famine of the mid 1800s. The bones were discovered by an American woman, who had inherited the cottage which had lain empty and broken for forty years. Local searches reveal that the house had originally belonged to The Quinns. Eliza Quinn was their baby.

This is a story that speaks of generations and of landscapes: abandoned villages, famine graves, old potato ridges sinking back into the earth, traces of a population that fell by two and a half million in less than ten years. It is also about hunger, both physical and emotional. But above all, it is the story of the Quinn family. And it is Carol Birch's tour de force.

'Deeply rooted humanity and highly intelligent understanding of the simulataneous complexity and simplicity of individual lives' Alex Clark. TLS

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (3 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184408146X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844081462
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Always understated, yet crammed with incidents of the highest drama, the novel's best moments come when the intense feeling that underlies it breaks out into densely weighted fragments of speech. It is at least as good as anything on this year's Booker shortlist, and I remain as mystified as ever by Carol Birch's absence from that far-from cluttered file of modern novelist whose works are genuinely worth their welcome (DJ Taylor, GUARDIAN)

Carol Birch's fiction continues to stretch bodies and minds to breaking point...marvellous and terrifying (Sunday TIMES)

Book Description

This is a wonderful, absorbing, epic novel about families and neighbours; about physical and emotional hunger; about love and long memories.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Naming of Eliza Quinn 13 Nov 2007
By Liam
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Set on the west coast of Ireland in 1969, 1900 and the late 1840s - as the Irish potato famine, the great hunger, took hold. The Naming of Eliza Quinn is well written with an intriguing stortyline that smoothly crosses the generations. It narrates the events surrounding a close knit local community, focusing on two families in particular. Commencing in 1969 with New Yorker Beatrice Conrad deciding to live in the cottage that she has inherited from her Irish grandmother. This early section of the book tries perhaps a little too hard to reflect the idyll beloved of Irish Americans, but few authors would neglect this huge potential market.

As the novel moves back through the time zones, Carol Birch does a very good job of seamlessly conveying the relationships between the different characters across the generations. The solution to the mysterious discovery uncovered early in the book unfolds neatly along with a flowing story of life in rural Ireland across closely spaced but markedly different times. There was pehaps a little too much focus on Irish supersticious beliefs in the oldest section of the text but the realistic way in which the tremendous struggle of the famine victims is portrayed more than made up for this.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only one review? 30 Nov 2007
By S. Caughie VINE VOICE
How is it that this book has only one review? Yes, it's a bit uneven in the early sections, as the other reviewer already pointed out, but I also agree with her that the later portions more than make up for it. I haven't read widely on the subject of the Irish potato famine, but I know enough to have been impressed by the level-headedness with which Birch approached the subject. There's no sentimentality here, which is no mean feat in a book that begins with the discovery of a child famine-victim's skeleton in a hollow tree. It's probably down to the narrators, particularly the original Eliza, who is practical perhaps to a fault; but that in itself makes the ending all the more heartbreaking. This is great modern Gothic. Read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Irish Potato Famine 12 Mar 2013
I chose this book because the introductory blurb seemed to offer me the hint of mystery: the bones of a long dead baby girl are found in a hollow in a tree trunk in Ireland. Who was the girl and how did the bones get there? I was looking forward to the unravelling of the mystery.

However, the story doesn't really work like that. The mysterious bones are simply an opener to the main story, which is the fate of a small community during the potato famine in the mid 1800s.

The story is told across three different centuries: the mid 20th century, the mid 1900s and the mid 1800s, with most of the focus being given to the mid 1800s, where the story is told by Eliza Quinn, a woman slightly separated from the rest of the community by the fact that she has knowledge of herbs and knows how to make charms.

It's quite a harrowing read, as the famine bites and choices become diminished.

I would recommend this with some reservations. It's a very readable historical novel, but I feel that this was an ambitious book that doesn't quite make the grade. What I mean by this is that I think that the author set out to write something that would stand above regular historical fiction - and I don't think that she got there. The writing is excellent, but for me the story lacked that essential magic that turns a technically good book into something that you rave about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Naming of ... 29 Jun 2012
After a slightly self conscious beginning, set at the end of the 1960s, this epic novel comes into its own as it harks back to tell the story of the Quinn family, and the Veseys, first in 1900 and then, further back in time, to the Irish potato famine during the mid 19th century. Carol Birch isn't a sentimental writer and so portrays vividly, in literary style, details of hardship, hunger and abject poverty. Nevertheless there is poetry and beauty in her prose which carries you through the awfulness of the novel's subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good reading 7 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
everything ok delivery within the time scale book in excellent condition and acorded to her that must be obeyed it's a cracking read
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