Showing posts with label Irish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars Book Review

Journey to Dublin, Ireland, during the time of the Spanish Flu in 1918 and discover parallels with the world's pandemic experience in 2020 in this fascinating page turner by Emma Donoghue.

I will start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the book The Pull of the Stars by Irish Canadian author Emma Donoghue. My book club chose it and when I first picked it up to read, I had forgotten that it was about a pandemic. It is a story of the Great Flu or the 1918 Influenza, which we now call the Spanish Flu. As it turns out, it was good and it was doubly interesting because of the current pandemic.

Set in Ireland in 1918, it tells a fictional story based on the very real world of a midwife working in a Dublin hospital who is assigned to the maternity fever ward. Not much bigger than a closet, this ward is where they quarantine pregnant women who are stricken with influenza. 

We meet a young midwife named Julia Powers who finds herself alone on her shift with the responsibility for all of the care of these sick, pregnant women.  She is at times aided by one of two women. Firstly, Doctor Kathleen Lynn, who is based on a real historical figure and who is wanted by the Dublin police because she was involved in the 1916 Irish Uprising. Secondly, she is assisted by a young volunteer from an orphanage named Bridie Sweeney who has absolutely no training or education but is quick on her feet and ready to do whatever is required of her.

Included within the story is a peek at the science of the time with regard to the flu and midwifery. It is a visit to the Dublin of the times where they were struggling with not just the flu but the devastation caused by World War I and the 1916 Uprising. Along the way, it also shares a look at some of the Irish societal injustices that existed at the time.  

The book is eerily similar to the current world situation even though we have the advantage of modern day science. Amongst other similarities are the facts that some still managed to question the value of wearing masks and others recommended taking weird remedies.

The Pull of the Stars is a page turner, a non-stop story that happens mostly during one long shift in the hospital during which Powers, sometimes aided by Doctor Lynn and/or Bridie, go from crisis to crisis to crisis. 

The timing of the writing of this book may have been a bit unfortunate though it was written before the current pandemic. After all, who wants to read a story based on a pandemic when they are living through one? However, the timing was not deliberate. Donoghue started writing the story in 2018 and the manuscript was sent to the publishers in March of 2020. 

After possibly a brief moment of hesitation because of the subject matter, the book drew me in and it became interesting to see, as the author says, "the way it mirrors our current situation."  The Guardian says, it is "a beautifully modulated historical novel."  I agree.

Reading this book now is different than it might have been before, for sure. NPR says, "The fourth wall of fiction is broken here. The pandemic spreads out beyond the pages into whatever rooms we are quarantined in.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Do I recommend The Pull of the Stars? Yes, I do. I highly recommend it. It is a fast moving account of life in a maternity fever ward with parallels to the current world situation.  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, has an interest in Ireland and/or midwifery will enjoy this book.  

I think NPR gives another good reason to pick up this book when they say that that Donoghue has "given us our first pandemic caregiver novel - an engrossing and inadvertently topical story about health care workers inside small rooms fighting to preserve life." 

I say, don't miss it. Order your copy from Amazon now by clicking right here.

See you 
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Ireland:

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes


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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

March 17th St. Patrick's Day Some Facts and Fiction You May Not Know!

So Today is St. Patrick's Day and I hope you are sporting the wearing of something Green!  A Holiday Review.

So what do we know about St. Patrick and what is just added fun for all of us?

Truth be told St. Patrick was a 5th Century missionary from England, sent to bring the message of the Gospels to Ireland.  St. Patrick's Day is celebrated today because it was the day he died in circa 492 (no one is sure about the year).  
                              Stained Glass Window of St. Patrick from Junction City Ohio , found on Widipedia

Patrick's start in Ireland was not a pleasant one,  he was captured by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave.  He was about 16 years old at the time and not a particularly devout follower of the Christ.  His time as a slave in Ireland would lead him to find his faith as a Christian and from that point onwards he was quick to declare that Christianity and belief in God was the way to live.

Historians are not sure of too much regarding Patrick, as much of the written works that speak of him no longer exist.  The earliest writings seems to be a letter to Pope Boniface IV around the year 613.  

So how do we have all these "symbols" that are used extensively to celebrate St. Patrick's Day today?

Patrick is credited with teaching the Irish about the Holy Trinity using the shamrock as a way to explain the ideology/theology of 3 unique persons in 1 God.  The pagan people in Ireland had many triple deities, so using the shamrock aided him in his evangelization efforts.  

Patrick is also given the credit for ridding Ireland of it's snakes.  If you look at historical texts you will find that another Irish saint should have that credit(and even that is questionable).  It was only in the 13th century that credit seems to have shifted to St. Patrick.  In fact there evidence that Ireland never had snakes, so there was nothing for him to banish.

There is also the tale of his walking stick.  No doubt as he travelled, he used a staff or walking stick to aid his footsteps.  As he was moving from place to place in Ireland, he came to a place now known as Aspatria.  Legend has it that he stuck his walking stick into the ground and it took so long to teach the people here, that his stick had taken root by the time he was ready to move on.

What is certain is that there isn't a whole lot of St. Patrick's Story that can be held as truth, but the 300 churches and hundreds of thousands that were baptized by him helped make Ireland a Christian nation.

Today we are not so religious about St. Patrick's Day, rather we love to hang onto the "fun" side of Irish culture and traditions.  Because St. Patrick was given credit for using the Shamrock for teaching purposes, and its green, both of these became stalwarts of the Irish identity beyond the borders of Ireland proper.  One of Ireland's claims to fame is that it is the land of a thousand different shades of green!  If you have ever seen an picture of Ireland from the air, you will know that is true.

But let's have some fun now....Why do we wear green on St. Patrick's Day?
Well, this hails back to the belief in Leprechauns, which is said to come from some of the Druid folklore (pre St. Patrick).  These Leprechauns were: little people, with magical powers that could serve both good and evil. The Celtic folktales, told of  their trickery that would keep their much fabled treasures safe.  It is also said that the wearing of the green is directly related to these little creatures in that they are not able to see the color green.  Therefore you were safe from their trickery if you wore the green!

                                                                          Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty  New York St. Patrick's Day Parade 2015


Everyone seems to be wearing green with sayings like "Kiss me I'm Irish!"  In past years, when there isn't a pandemic to keep us away, there were parades and music marking St. Patrick's Day.  The first St. Patrick's Day parade according to History.com was held in New York City in 1895. (There is a debate that there may have been a St. Patrick's Day Parade held in St. Augustine, Florida earlier than 1895) No doubt many Irish immigrants (who came during the potato famine in Ireland 1845) were the inspiration for this reveling  of cultural identity in their new home.  It was a balm to them to celebrate their heritage even though time were tough and not everyone welcomed the Irish.  


While we think of corned beef and cabbage as being a typical Irish Dinner, the truth is that in Ireland they will have Ham and Cabbage. When the Irish came to America, many were very poor so they substituted Corned beef for the Ham (it was cheaper).  Today, this is a staple meal to serve for St. Patrick's Day Dinner.

As with many things in North America, we have made St. Patrick's Day our own.  We can see people enjoying green beer or drinking the traditional Guinness while enjoying Irish step dancers and marching bands.  

Chicago even dyes their river green in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  Now that is a clever trick worthy of any leprechauns in the city.

St. Patrick's Day has become a day not just for the Irish, but for anyone who loves a good time, a great party and a reason to celebrate.  You don't have to be Irish to enjoy all the sights and sounds of a wonderful day that just happens to come on March 17th.  



After a long winter, it's nice to have something "Green" to celebrate.  Wear your Shamrocks and Green with pride and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!











Some lovely items for your home to help you celebrate everything Irish.


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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Can I Give Him My Eyes Book Review

Can I Give Him My Eyes Book Review
Can I Give Him My Eyes is a biographical book that was written by Richard Moore with the assistance of his long-time friend and supporter, Don Mullan. It tells the story of a ten-year old boy who loses his eyesight on May 4, 1972, on the way home from school when he is shot by a soldier during The Troubles in Ireland.

According to Moore’s book, he was just passing by when he was shot. The rubber bullets were supposed to be used to control crowds and riots but to this day Moore does not know why he was shot.

In any case, those rubber bullets, which were thought to be a relatively safe way of controlling riots, turned out to be more dangerous than anticipated. Moore survived being; other children did not.

If you would like a look at The Troubles in Ireland, this book will be a good education. I learned of it while on a trip to Ireland in 2018 during which I visited both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Of course, 2018 was a safe year to visit, unlike the years of the Northern Ireland Conflict, which spanned approximately 1968 to 1998. During those years there were riots, shootings and bombings almost every day. In the end, the conflict killed almost four thousand people and of course it also left many victims behind. The antagonism between the Irish Catholic population and the British army and especially the events of Bloody Sunday caused fear and hatred of the army from the people and no doubt fear and hatred in return. The tense atmosphere was likely the reason that Moore was shot despite the fact that he was a child passing by and not participating in a riot or public gathering.

Can I Give Him My Eyes is not just about the loss of Moore’s eyes. The catastrophe happens early on in the book, which is also about his journey in life, about how he learned to cope as a blind person, about the upheaval it caused his family and about how it changed and set the direction of his life.

Moore manages to accept the fact of his blindness almost right away. He carried forward no bitterness or anger, which he attributes to his parents who were peaceful and never spoke bitter or angry words. The Dalai Lama, who Moore eventually met and who Moore considers to be both a hero and a friend, once said and Moore agrees that, “Forgiveness is a gift to yourself.” Moore could have been bogged down by the event and the reality of being blinded but instead he moved on and let his situation propel him forward to experiences that he might not otherwise have ever had.

He has a university degree, has had two businesses, is a musician and, as a peace and reconciliation worker, started an organization called Children in Crossfire to help children in troubled situations around the world have opportunities that they might not otherwise have. He had lots of support and kindness as a child and as an adult and he wants to make sure that others in difficulty do, too.

Interestingly, Moore eventually goes on to meet the soldier who shot the rifle that injured him. They have become friends and they have even worked together. On the cover of Can I Give Him My Eyes, His Holiness the Dalia Lama, says, “I encourage people across the world to read what Richard has to say. Despite his own loss, he has found freedom through forgiveness.”

This book is RECOMMENDED by me. Not as a page turner but rather as a look at the troubled times in Ireland and at one man’s lifetime journey because of his injury. You can find your copy on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:


In the Name of the Father, Irish movie review.
My Left Foot, Irish movie review.






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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Irish Mug Reviewed

For St. Patricks Day Or Any Day

Irish Scene image courtesy of Pixabay.com
I have been looking for an Irish mug to add to my cupboard for a couple of reasons. As I write this we are fast approaching St. Patricks Day so there is one reason that I would like to have one. The other reason is that I have been working on my genealogy in the last few months and it turns out that I have several Irish ancestors. 

When I got my DNA testing results back the report indicated that about 22% of my DNA is from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. To be honest, I was a little surprised by those results. Now, that I have spent so much time looking for ancestors; I am a little surprised that the numbers aren't higher than that 22%. The chart did show the entire area of Ireland but then it was also quite specific for Ulster, Munster and Connaught. As I plodded through the hints of possible people who belonged in my family tree at first I was only finding people who came from Ireland but their origin was not very specific. Then one day I found it! Well, eventually I found several "its". It may seem silly but I got really excited to find family from those areas that were specifically mentioned. I am still amazed that the DNA results could be so exact especially since those connections go way back in time.  I am not talking a couple of hundred years, folks. Those family members go way back to the 200's, 300's, 400's and 500s in the Common Era! My ancestors came from those areas of Ireland when Ulster, Munster and Connaught were kingdoms in and of themselves. 

So, I have become quite fascinated with Ireland and its history. That is why I have been looking for things pertaining to Ireland which led me to wanting an Irish mug to drink my coffee in. I found one that I particularly like. 

As I continue to work on my genealogy, I can enjoy my coffee in a colorful cup that reminds me of where many of my people came from. I also like that the Irish blessing can inspire my day:

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand. 

I am thrilled that I took the DNA test and am finding ancestors from several countries, not just Ireland. It has been quite an interesting journey into my family's past. How about you? Do you know for sure that you have Irish ancestry?



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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Murder In An Irish Village Reviewed

Irish Setting In A New Mystery Series

Irish Village Scene courtesy of Pixabay.com
Today's review is for the first book in a new mystery series called Irish Village Mysteries that I literally stumbled upon last week. I wasn't familiar with the author but decided to take a chance and I am so glad that I did. 

The first book in this two book series is: Murder In An Irish Village. The story takes place in County Cork, Ireland in the small village of Kilbane. The O'Sullivans are a family of six children who lost their parents a year ago in a tragic auto accident. Since that terrible day the kids, led by 22 year old Siobhan, have kept the family business running. The business is a little bistro that their parents started called Naomi's Bistro. They serve breakfast and lunch in the small shop and live upstairs over the eatery. 

The book has a most delightful cast of characters! The children are so very believable with the sibling arguments that any family has to encounter. The youngest is a 10 year old little boy who is just hysterical in his antics and not knowing when to rein in his words. He just blurts things out at the most inopportune times. Just like most 10 year olds. 

Siobhan is smart, funny and quite the little sleuth. Her older brother James has been accused of murdering Niall in their family bistro and she is determined to find the real killer so that her brother can be set free. Now Niall was a bad sort! He tried to extort 10,000 euro for Siobhan just before he was killed. Was he blackmailing others? Our fiesty little red-haired gal is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. 

I just absolutely loved the setting, the plot and the characters in this book. There are several twists and turns and I have to admit that I was surprised at who the murderer turned out to be. I liked the realism of the bungling attempts of 22 year old Siobhan as she tries to solve the mystery of Niall's death. She isn't exactly subtle in her questioning sometimes but then again she is young and wouldn't have the experience that an older person might have. 


I also loved that Carlene O'Connor used real Irish slang in the conversations between the characters.  There is a glossary at the beginning of the book that gives you the meanings of some of the phrases that might not be part of your own vocabulary. Ms. O'Connor also helps with the pronunciation of the very Irish names of the O'Sullivan kids. Like Siobhan...that is pronounced shi -vawn. She has a brother named Eoin which is Owen. That impish little 10 year old is named Ciaran which is pronounced Keeran. It is well worth looking through those pages before the story begins.

I plan to read the second book in the series, too. I found the writing of the author very entertaining with her well rounded characters and fast pace twists and turns as she unfolded the story. Very well done!



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Monday, August 29, 2016

Brooklyn Movie Review

Brooklyn
Brooklyn is a beautiful romantic period drama set in the early 1950's.  We watch as Eilis, a very young Irish woman, prepares to leave her country and her family in order to build a life in America. We are present as she struggles with the trip, the transition, and finally with the definitions of  home and family. Brooklyn is a movie that I will need to purchase as I find myself wanting to watch it again and again.

Brooklyn


Brooklyn was released in theaters in the US on January 26, 2015 and released on DVD in 2016. The movie was directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby. The movie was based on the book Brooklyn written by Colm Toibin.

In the movie, we watch as Eilis learns that she is being sponsored by a Irish priest in America. On her first trip over, she is fortunate that her roommate is a more seasoned traveler and a more out-spoken woman who is not at all afraid to advocate for herself and Eilis.  She gives Eilis helpful information about traveling by ship, how to combat horrible sea-sickness, and how to handle herself upon arrival at Ellis Island.

Although a very quiet and gentle movie, there is enough tension to keep me glued to the screen.  Eilis arrives at the boarding house and we meet the characters there. She obtains work at a department store, and we watch as she transitions from her job in a very small shop in Ireland to a huge department store in the US. We watch as she meets Tony, a handsome and hardworking young man, and meets his Italian family. During all of this, Eilis is balancing severe homesickness with feelings of success in America.

Eilis is suddenly called back to Ireland.  While there, we get glimpses of the conflict between her feelings of home and the familiar with feelings of doing well in America.  She loves both Tony and yet has met a man in Ireland who quickly develops feelings for her. She has a secret, and as her mean-spirited boss in Ireland threatens her with this secret, Eilis has a decision to make.  

Will she make the decision that you want her to make? 

What Others Are Saying About Brooklyn


The film and/or the cast has been nominated for, or has won, more awards than I care to list here.  A few of those awards and nominations are from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and many more. 

On Amazon, there are currently 2,119 reviews that result in 4.5 out of 5 stars. And on IMDb, over 75,000 reviews result in a rating of 7.5 out of 10 stars.  

There are some folks who refer to this movie as a "chick flick", not their cup of tea, and as a film with under-developed characters.  I have to say that I agree with those opinions to a certain extent.  Yes, it is a young woman's love story.  A coming of age tale of a woman.  It is also a movie, which is relatively short in length compared to books, and it is difficult to "know" the characters in a deeper sense with such a large cast.  I would have liked to know more about the other gals at the boarding house. And I would have liked more reasons to dislike the difficult boss in Ireland.  The glimpse into Tony's family was the briefest peek, leaving me wanting more.  But these things did not distract from the movie for me. I still enjoyed the movie very much. So much so that I plan on reading the book. 

Brooklyn - A New York Time Bestseller


Many, many reviews commented on the excellent production design. From the streets and stores, to the automobiles, the dresses, and newly redesigned women's bathing costumes... we are whisked fully into the 1950's. And oh, that polka dot dress! I thought of the stories of my grandmother taking on boarders. And remembered photos of my mother in her dresses in those old black and white photos. Right down to the shoes - Brooklyn seems to have gotten the details right.

I don't know why I did not take note when this movie was in the theaters. Although, I often wait for movies to be released on DVD before I see them.  I randomly chose to watch this movie and I'm so glad that I did.

Related Links


I cried along at one point in the movie. As Eilis is serving a meal to many of the Irish men who literally helped build the US, but were now alone with the exception of the other gentleman gathered, one man stood and sang. Larla O' Lionaird sang a haunting, a cappella version of Frankie's Song. You can sample and/or purchase this amazing song here

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly - Galway Bay is another story of Irish emigration. While Brooklyn is about the choice of leaving Ireland in order to access more opportunities, Galway Bay is the story of families being forced out of Ireland. Famine did not leave them much choice to remain. The opportunity they were seeking was the opportunity to survive. Galway Bay is a story I will never forget.

A Ring with a Heart and Hands -- Whether you know this ring design as a Fede Ring of Italian origin or later as a Claddagh Ring, you can be sure that the ring symbolizes deep loyalty and love. How one wears the ring matters and our Barbara Tremblay Cipak educates us on the wearing of the Ring with a Heart and Hands.

Official Movie Trailer






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Monday, March 9, 2015

Galway Bay - A Must-Read Irish Historic Fiction

As St. Patrick's Day approaches I am pulling out my copy of Galway Bay for a second reading.  Yes, it was so good that I will read it again. And that is the reason I am writing this review. Galway Bay is a beautifully-written historical fiction that describes the horrors of the potato famine and ultimately the life and survival of a family and two countries.


Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

I happened across the novel Galway Bay one day when I was wandering around the local book store. I don't know of a way to describe this story of survival in a way that will do it justice but I will try my best.

I was immediately hooked with the prologue:

"We wouldn't die, and that annoyed them. They'd spent centuries trying to kill us off, one way or another, and here we were, raising seven, eight, nine of a family on nothing but potatoes and buttermilk. But then the blight destroyed the potato. Three times in four years our only food rotted in the ground." -- Honora Keeley Kelly as told to her great-granddaughter Agnella Kelly.


As we follow Honora Keeley Kelly through her life, meeting her as a young lady preparing to enter the convent, we learn of the lives of the fishermen and tenant farmers in Ireland during "the Before Times".  She is a young lady whose family supports themselves fishing Galway Bay  "so calm and quiet. But I know your moods.Turn my back and you could be raging and rolling."  Honora is determined to not be the wife of a fisherman and has decided to marry the church instead.   She is determined and her family is proud; hoping that she is chosen.  She is sure of her plan until she meets Michael Kelly.

Honora and Micheal begin their lives together, a young couple deeply in love. Then the blight comes, year after year, and destroys their major food source. Many starve during the harsh conditions.  Honora Keeley survives, but I’m not sure how since the odds are clearly against her. Penal laws continue to cause difficulties and the status quo level of poverty for tenant farmers jumps to a level of famine, starvation, and desperation.


A Personal Connection


As I age, my interest in things Irish has increased. I guess it’s hard to think about where you came from when you are young and very busy trying to figure out where you are going. But now that I’m more mature I have time to ponder things such as where my grandparents, and their parents, and their grandparents came from.

I know that my very distant relatives on my dad’s side perhaps immigrated to the United States due to fleeing religious persecution. I don’t know as much about my mom’s side. However, I do understand that at some point, they emigrated from Ireland. As a child, I remember the delighted twinkle in my grandmother's eyes as she told my mom of their trip back to Ireland. Unfortunately, I was too young to pay attention to her stories then and I couldn't understand why she was so happy to have kissed a rock with some guy named Blarney. As I age, my interest in Ireland and in my heritage grows.

I am thankful to Mary Pat Kelly for sharing her family history and story in such an entertaining and educational way.  Whether you are interested in the history of Ireland and early America or whether you love a good love story and the tale of a mother's love and desperate journey to raise her children, I think you will love this story. 





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