*** About the Book ***
Ireland, 1932: Ben McCarthy has lived a charmed life as the only child of successful farming parents who love both each other and their son unreservedly. But Ben's world comes crashing down around him when his father unexpectedly runs off after a traveling actress barely older than Ben. His mother, furious and heartbroken, demands that Ben find his father and bring him back home. Unsure of his place in the wide world and extremely naive about women, Ben reluctantly pursues his father from town to town attempting to make him come home.
This is only part of the story however, because Ireland at this time was a land in turmoil. The country had been partitioned (the North still belonged to England while the South was now independent), the Irish Civil War had ended, and new political figures were rising. Each party wanted to steer the country down a path that directly opposed the other party. Politics permeated every layer of society and every town and city. It is amid this chaos that Ben's search for his father becomes part of something much more sinister ...
*** Why I Read It ***
I've been wanting to read something by Frank Delaney for quite a while. I have his book IRELAND on my shelf waiting for me. When I received a pitch for this book from a publicist it was the setting that convinced me to give it a shot; Ireland in the 1930s is when/where my Gram grew up. I was hoping to get a better idea of what life was like for her by understanding the times she lived in.
*** My Thoughts ***
If I were telling you the story of my life I'd start with my birth, but then I'd have to go back and explain a bit about my parents. I'd continue on into my childhood but then I'd have to detour to discuss my extended family. My college experience would necessarily have to include a bit about what was going on in world politics. My life story, linear though it may have been in reality, cannot truly be told without pulling in details from a variety of other places. THAT is what this book is like ... and I loved that about it.
Ben tells the reader up front that he is fond of digressions and plans to include lots of them in his tale. I found them to be fascinating, but they did slow the story down a bit. At one point I realized that I was more than halfway through the book but I didn't feel like I knew what the heart of the story was supposed to be about. It didn't bother me in the least because I was enjoying the journey, but those who are looking for a quick pace might be disappointed.
There was one character in the book, James Clare, whose words will stay with me for a long time. Whatever was going on, he always turned events into a mythological story. If there was a girl who had a beautiful mother and cruel father, he referred to the girl as The Princess and her parents as The Beautiful Queen and The Evil King. When Ben set out to find his father, James called it a Quest. I loved the way he viewed the world and I will definitely try to be more imaginative in my own views from here on out.
This book has a bit of everything: adventure, love, rivalry, politics, treachery, drama, travel, history, and on and on and on. It was my first book by Frank Delaney but it definitely won't be my last.
*** A Bit More Personal ***
While reading a few specific parts of this book, my Gram's stories came vividly to mind ...
At one point in the book, Ben witnesses a cottage on fire. The mother is outside with her children huddled around her while the local men carry as much furniture out as they can before the entire place is engulfed in flames. This actually happened to my Gram's family. It was just after Christmas and a fire started in the chimney in the farmhouse they were renting. A man going by on a bicycle banged on their door to wake them up when he saw the thatch roof on fire. Gram's mother, Annie, got all four children outside safely before the entire house started blazing. Gram's father, Jimmy, ran back inside to retrieve the dolls he'd bought his three daughters for Christmas. The family was very poor and he had saved and saved to get these gifts. He ended up burning his hands very badly. The house was a complete loss, as were the dolls. The local doctor put some sort of cream on Jimmy's hands and wrapped them tightly, giving strict instructions to "Leave them alone!" When he was able to unwrap them, everyone was amazed to see that there were absolutely no scars.
At another point in the book Ben discusses the violence permeating the countryside. Gram was born in 1924 and lived in Ireland until the late 1930s, when she moved to England. To this day she remembers Ireland as a dangerous place, one that she never wanted to return to ... and she never did.
*** Your Thoughts ***
Is this book on your radar? Have you read other books by Frank Delaney? Do you seek out books set in specific times or places to better connect with something in your own family history? Which times and places?
*** The Author ***
If you want to connect with the author, there are lots of places to find him ...
- Frank's Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frank-Delaney/400446510051?ref=ts - I'm already a fan, are you?
- Twitter- @FDbytheword (featuring "365 writing tips")
*** Worldwide Giveaway ***
I have a copy of this book to give away to one lucky reader anywhere in the world, thanks to the publicist. Here's how to enter:
- Leave a comment telling me why you want to read this book - Are you a fan of the author? Does the setting appeal to you? Is it the plot that caught your attention?
- Make sure your email address is available through your profile or blog, or leave it in your comment.
- I'll announce the winner on Sunday, April 18.
- The winner must respond to my email within 48 hours or I'll choose a new winner.