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Woodbrook Paperback – 17 Feb 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (17 Feb. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009935991X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099359913
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 232,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"A brilliantly original mix of love-story, memoir and history" (Brian Moore)

"It remains with one long after the story is told, a haunting sadness, a memory and a dream" (Olivia Manning Spectator)

Book Description

'Woodbrook is simply one of the most enchanting books I've read in a long time - it begins in delight before it ends in wisdom' - Seamus Heaney

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Woodbrook has stayed with me since I first read it ten years ago - it's one of the only books I find myself frequently recommending to others. David Thomson's descriptions of the summers at Woodbrook and the characters he met and heard about are very simple, and convey utterly the experience of enjoying a time in innocence which you will look back on with grief for its passing. He also tells the fascinating and tormented history of the region around the house of Woodbrook and its people, through the famine to the Second World War. And of course it is a love story (which would in almost any other circumstances put me off) - one whose history is almost unbearably poignant. I could hardly do anything for several hours after I finished it, totally dazed, and haunted.
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Excellent
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Format: Paperback
A young Oxford student of history arrives at the Irish stately house of the Kirkwood family for the summer to tutor the two young daughters. Immediately he is enveloped and enchanted by a new world - the gentle landscape of lakes and mountains, the slightly eccentric family and their workers, who on the surface appear respectful and whole-heated in their labours, but deep underneath harbour misgivings. Over repeated summers the young man gets to know his hosts and the people of the neighbourhood as the historian in him delves into the past; how rebellion, famine and war had shaped the current affairs, and how memories and folklore are preserved in peoples' thinking.

Irish history is mostly a partisan and ugly affair, but it comes here in small bites with no flag-waving or false glorification, which are nonetheless shocking and revealing. Interspersed are details of daily live in the house and its surrounds - tiny dramas far from the 1930's world of encroaching war.

Long before the end the author is overpowered by his emotions for it all - the countryside, the lives of the people in the house and around it, and in particular the eldest daughter, Phoebe. As she is only 13 to 14 years old at the time their liaison was naturally frowned upon, but the author would have us believe both parties shared an innocence as well as feelings. And I tend to believe him as in all else he writes with such frankness and self-effacement, which is a big part of the book's appeal.

Is it the effect of youth?... life at Woodbrook is magically portrayed as timeless, and then suddenly it is out of time and crumbling. A time so close to our own time, and now gone from our reach.

Moving. Intelligent. It is all these things and more. Marvellous!
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Format: Paperback
David Thompson brings alive the wonderfully innocent relationship between himself and his pupil against the backdrop of one of the most exciting periods in recent Irish history.
He skillfully intertwines the past and present and brings even the most uninformed up to speed regarding Irish History.
It is a beautiful read - read it and keep it for your children.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
wonderful book.
Stays with you long after finishing it.

It's set in the 30's and 40's in Co. Roscommon, in the rural west of Ireland. The locale is Woodbrook, a house and farm located between Boyle and Carrick-on-Shannon. The house is occupied by the Kirkwoods, a declining Anglo-Irish family, once wealthy and powerful, now living in a poorly maintained house and chased by creditors. Other characters in the book are the neighbouring local Irish, who work on the farm.
The book is about loss; firstly, the doomed platonic love affair beteeen the author (in his teens and twenties) and Phoebe, his student, who is 7 years younger, and secondly, the inevitable decay of the house and lands.

The book was written 30 years after the event and so is somewhat rose-tinted. The author admitted that he burned his notebooks in Woodbrook in a fit of jealousy, when Phoebe went off with a friend of the author, and so he had to rely on memory when writing the book. Naturally, as he admits, many of the un-pleasant aspects were forgotten.

The book reminded me, in parts, of McEwan's "Atonement" and somewhat less of Sebald's " Austerlitz" but I think "Woodbrook" was superior.

The book gives one insight of how the Anglo-Irish families lived between the two world wars.
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As other reviewers have indicated this was possibly a good book for those wishing for a genial brush with rural Irish social culture, but personally I found myself bogged down in a mire of too much historical patter.

The cover blurb promised intrigue: an 18 year-old live-in private tutor strikes up a relationship with Phoebe his eleven-year-old pupil, and a loving bond grows between them.

But for me, there were too many distracting deviations relating to Irish history and to seemingly inconsequential other family members. Only when the social customs impinged directly upon the author did the story become absorbing. Until the final two chapters we were never allowed to glimpse the tender moments hinted at in the advertised description.

Being based on a real-life experience I guess too much truth may have resulted in indelible incrimination for the author, who was later to become an award-winning writer for one of his subsequent publications.

Other comparable novels consider similar age-divergent relationships more explicitly. Compared with the five-star Sudie, Tideland, The Belvedere Field (Vanguard), or Still She Haunts Me, I can only award this three stars.
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