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The Irish Potato Famine
on 12 March 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.