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Gathering Carrageen Paperback – Abridged, Audiobook, Box set
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'A work of extraordinary depth and clarity driven by a desire to understand the importance of place, to trace the lineaments of belonging, and to observe what we now hold of our past.' --Barnaby Rogerson
About the Author
Monica Connell grew up in Northern Ireland. She studied Sociology at London University followed by Social Anthropology at Oxford. Her first book, Against a Peacock Sky, an account of two years in a Nepalese village, was shortlisted for the Yorkshire Post Best First Work award and has been translated into two languages. More recently she trained as a photographer and published two illustrated books about Bristol contemporary culture, Flying High: New Circus in Bristol, and A Universal Passion: Music and Dance from Many Cultures. She currently lives in Andalucia.
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Connell's clear and unaffected prose makes this account a delight to read. Her observation of this community through anthropologist's eyes allows her to calmly observe detail and record dialogue whilst in no way detracting from her affection for place and people. During their stay she and her husband entered fully into the life of the community, winning the trust and the friendship of many local characters.Through these friendships they are introduced to many of the traditional ways of life there: digging and storing peat as fuel to keep their cottage warm through winter; gathering carrageen and shellfish from the shore with which to make soups and puddings; going out into wild seas for days at a time with local fishermen and experiencing their hand-to-mouth existence; joining in with that quintessential event in Irish culture, the after-hours music and banter session in the local public house.
Her account of taking part in the Loch Dearg pilgrimage, a gruelling three day fast which includes an arduous twenty-four hour vigil of prayer and walking, is compelling reading. Again Connell's powers of observation and retention come to the fore and through her lucid writing we are given a ringside seat to this ancient ritual and its modern-day participants.
'Gathering Carrageen' is an account of a culture that is rapidly changing its ways after centuries of tradition and custom. It is timely that Connell came along to document this group of Donegal people before their Gaelic culture homogenises completely with the globalised existence led by most of us in the Western world. It is also fortunate for those people that their stories were told by someone with the sensitivity of Connell who has portrayed them, their lives and their surroundings with such unadorned clarlty.
The descriptions are vivid and portray old lifestyles which are honest, hard-working & value essential needs, water, food, fuel, shelter & community.
lt was gently engaging & respectful as was her return to her childhood village in n.w.lreland, to help her come to terms with earlier loss.
Very poignant & beautiful. Thankyou for writing this.