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The central character in Sebastian Barry's novel Annie Dunne is a woman who has been pushed to the margins, a woman whom life has given few chances of happiness and fulfillment. Unmarried, she spends years as housekeeper for her brother-in-law because her sister is too ill to manage. Her sister dies, her brother-in-law remarries, and Annie Dunne is homeless. Invited by her cousin Sarah, she moves to a small farm in a remote part of Wicklow. As the novel opens, the two cousins share their lives and the work on the farm. It is the late 1950s and rural Ireland is changing around them. Annie's nephew heads for London in search of work and leaves his young children with their great-aunt. Content with her life with Sarah, Annie also finds a new capacity for love in her feelings for the two children. Yet even the small pleasures that Annie finds in her life are threatened. An unlikely suitor pays court to Sarah, and Annie's love for the children opens her up to pain almost as much as to happiness. Annie Dunne is a novel in which few external dramas occur--there is an accident with a pony and trap, one of the children goes temporarily missing--but Barry evokes superbly the inner dramas of his characters. In a society where emotions are often severely repressed and expressed only obliquely, small incidents hint at larger feelings and Barry has written a story in which these are subtly and poignantly unfolded. --Nick Rennison, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Irish playwright and novelist Barry's gift for image and metaphor (The Whereabouts of Aneas McNulty) are equaled here by his eye for descriptive detail. This moving story is narrated by the eponymous Annie Dunne, who, in her 60s, has come to live with her cousin Sarah on an impoverished farm in Kelsha, County Wicklow. Plain and poor, and afflicted with a humpback since a childhood attack of polio, Annie is grateful to Sarah for taking her in. She loves the farm and attacks the backbreaking daily chores with fierce ardor. But when a scheming handyman on a neighboring farm begins to court Sarah, Annie sees her livelihood threatened and fights back with the only weapons in her arsenal: bitterness and rage. Complicating the events of the summer spanned by the plot are the two young children left in Annie's care by her nephew, who's gone off to London. As Annie is terrified to admit, even to herself, the children have their own dark secret, too fearsome to contemplate. Veering between dread, anger and shame, Anne's thoughts are also a mixture of whimsical observations, nave ideas and a poetic appreciation of the natural world. This compassionate portrait of a distraught woman mourning the years of promise and dreams that were "narrowed by the empty hand of possibility" is a masterful feat of characterization, all the more vivid against the backdrop of rural Ireland in the 1950s, undergoing changes that throw Annie's life into sharper focus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are moments of beauty in this story, bolstered by the fulsomeness of Barry's writing. Barry justifies his prose: "If you listen carefully for how people are talking to you in Ireland, in certain districts, it is quite elaborate, there is a strangeness to it."
An interesting aside is that Annie Dunne was a real person: the author's father's aunt and, in his boyhood, his "favorite person on God's earth." And, like the boy in the story, Barry lived with her at Kelsha one summer in his youth.
The story is told through Annie's eyes and her bitter -sweet musings. It is a very introspective novel where very little happens. Annie and Sarah's world is shaken up one summer as they take in Annie's young great grandnephew and grandniece. Meanwhile , a local man in his late 40's begins to court Sarah - or is it the farm - threatening Annie's place on the farm.
Annie compares herself to a cranberry tree " Now in the dark shales of the night it stands with its generous, bitter arms. This is the happiness allowed to me.' p 43
Annie reflecting on her life " Oh, what a mix of things the world is, what a flood of cream, turning and turning in the butter churn of things, but that never comes to butter.' p. 99
A slow but beautifully told wee bit of story. Sebastian Barry has found a new fan.
Most recent customer reviews
Sebastian Barry's second novel gives the reader a look at life in rural Ireland in the late 1950s from 'ground level' - through the eyes of a woman in her early 60s who has... Read morePublished on Aug. 18 2003 by Larry L. Looney
This is one of the most beautifully written books that I have read in a long time. If you are interested in the heart of the Irish people you will love this book. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 2002