Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Books about Women

 February's pick for one of my book groups was an Irish novel, Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry.  It was a great pick, as it led to insightful and lively discussion.  Rather surprising for such a small, unassuming novel!

The main character is, of course, Annie Dunne, a simple Irish woman in her 60's living on a small farm in rural Wicklow with her cousin, Sarah.  The story begins in 1959.  Annie has never been married, and spent years living in her sister's home as a housekeeper.  When her sister died,  Annie's brother-in-law remarried, and sent Annie away, as she was no longer needed.  She was then homeless, and was invited by Sarah to come and live with her.  One day, her nephew, whom she helped raise while her sister was ill, came to ask if Annie would care for his son and daughter over the summer.  The children add a whole new dimension to Annie and Sarah's lives and Annie is surprised at her deep feelings for the children.  However, this pleasure is threatened when Annie learns that Sarah is being courted.  Old feelings arise in Annie.

This was really a quite fascinating book, with many sub-themes going on.  I loved how Annie incorporated things that her grandfather used to say and do into her everyday life.  The language and prose of the book is beautiful.  One of the very interesting things noted after reading the book, is that the children never were named.  They were always referred to in the book as "the boy" or "the girl".

All in all, an excellent book!

I followed Annie Dunne with Alice Hoffman's latest book, The Red Garden.  Each chapter of the book takes place in a different time period, going from 1750 to sometime in the 2000's.  All of the stories are about the town of Bearsville, MA (later changed to Blackwell in 1786).  In 1750, Hallie married William Brady and he led an expedition that landed in the area that Hallie named Bearsville, because of the bears there.  In the first story we are introduced to Hallie and the others who stayed in Bearsville.  Hallie helped the others survive their first winter in Bearsville. After the first winter, Hallie started a garden where the soil was as red as blood and everything grown there was red.

Each chapter was about descendants of the founders of Bearsville.  I did have a little trouble with following who was who, but finally let that go, and just enjoyed the stories.  It was very interesting how Ms. Hoffman tied all of the stories together, and to see how the world events over the years affected this small town and it's people.  This book also had lovely language and prose. I enjoyed the book!

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