No Country Book Review

Intergenerational family stories are a genre unto themselves. What makes one narrative compelling or another boring depends on the writer ensuring that all of the threads weave together to create a coherent and engaging tale.

No Country, by Kalyan Ray, was published in 2014. The novel starts in a small town in rural Ireland in 1843. Brendan and Padraig have been best friends since they were young. As it usually happens when we are on the cusp of adulthood, the boys are torn apart by blossoming and confusing romantic feelings. Padraig is unaware that his girlfriend, Brigid is carrying their child, when he leaves for the city to fight for his nation’s independence. Instead of returning home, he makes a dangerous mistake that sends him instead to India.

Back in Ireland, Brendan is raising Padraig and Brigid’s daughter, Maeve as his own child. When the potato famine struck, he decided that it would be better to start a new life in America. As the years pass and different branches of the family tree come into being, questions of identity, politics, and history play with the fate of their descendants.

The book started off well enough. I was drawn into the narrative and the character’s struggles. The problem is that about 2/3rds of the way in, I got lost. I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, but for whatever reason, the story lost its momentum. While I did finish it, the ending left me with an empty feeling.

Do I recommend it? No.

No Country is available wherever books are sold.

Carnegie’s Maid Book Review

Between 1850 and 1930, millions immigrated to America, looking for a better life and a brighter future.

Clara Kelley was one of them. She is the heroine in Marie Benedict’s 2018 book, Carnegie’s Maid. In her native Ireland, Clara knows nothing but poverty and hunger via the great potato famine. The daughter of farming family, she has nothing to lose when she emigrates to America. But she has everything to lose when she takes the identity of another woman with the same name who died on the voyage to America. The job she has taken is that of lady’s┬ámaid to the imperious mother of steel magnate and future philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Mrs. Carnegie knows what she wants in a lady’s maid and makes no bones about firing girls who do not meet her exacting standards.

Intelligent and very capable, Clara becomes friends with her mistress’s son. As they become closer and their friendship becomes something more, the harder it becomes for Clara’s secret to stay a secret. Will her true identity ever be revealed and will the consequences of that revelation be?

I loved this book. Ms. Benedict has a way of immediately drawing her readers in and telling the stories of women whose stories would normally not be told. Though the narrative has a Jane Eyre-ish undercurrent, it does not end the way I would have expected the narrative to end.

I recommend it.

 

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