Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gracelin O'Malley

Ann Moore brings to life the haunting beauty of nineteenth-century Ireland and its tumultuous, heartbreaking history in the first novel of her critically acclaimed trilogy

Gracelin’s father, Patrick, named her for the light of the sea that shone in her eyes. But joy and laughter leave the O’Malley clan when Gracelin is six-and-a-half and tragedy befalls the family. Less than a decade later, Gracelin must put her romantic dreams aside and marry a local landowner, the son of an English lord, to save her loved ones from financial ruin. Although she is a dutiful wife to capricious Bram Donnelly, Gracelin takes dangerous risks. With political violence sweeping through Ireland and the potato blight destroying lives, she secretly sides with the Young Irelanders, among them her brilliant brother, Sean, and the rebel leader Morgan McDonagh. Set against the rise of the Irish rebellion, with a cast of unforgettable characters led by the indomitable eponymous heroine, Gracelin O’Malley weaves a spellbinding story of courage, hope, and passion.

Opening Sentences:  Campfire flickered in the woods along the far bank of the River Lee. It was early spring and the tinkers had come. If they had waited but another day, they would not have witnessed the terrible thing that happened there. 

First, let me say that this is one of the finest books I have ever read - and that's saying a lot because I read one or two novels every week. At the heart of the story is Irish born Gracelin O'Malley who is one of the most endearing, memorable characters I have encountered. I have ever read about. Just as fascinating are the other characters in the story, chiefly, her family. This is a tightly-bonded family that works hard not only to survive, but to succeed. For the benefit of the family, Gracelin's father betroths her to Squire Donnelly, a wealthy nobleman. Gracelin enters willingly into the marriage with the promise that her family will be looked after. At first, everything goes well, but it does not take long for Donnelly's dark side to show. Angry and evil, he physically abuses Gracelin and their child. His crude and callous personality creates enemies wherever he goes, whoever he encounters. Despite the horrendous cruelties Gracelin endures, she does all that she can to help her family and people who suffer immense devastation by the potato famine that is ravishing Ireland. The story brings to light the aloofness of the English and their direct contribution to the starvation and hundreds of thousands of Irish. The story is powerful, poignant, and gripping, accurate in historical detail, and vibrant in its telling. Ann Moore is truly a masterful writer  who has penned a true epic in three novels, of which Gracelin O'Malley is the first. This extraordinary trilogy is definitely one to be savoured and kept in the personal collections of readers everywhere. 

I have not yet read the other two books in the trilogy, Leaving Ireland and 'Til Morning Light, but rest assured, they are on my list! Incredibly delicious - you have to read this book! I can't rave enough about it.