Sunday, 7 June 2015

Annie Dunne - Sebastian Barry

Annie Dunne is an old fashioned spinster.  Irish, living with a cousin on a smallholding somewhere in Ireland, she is there because her cousin took her in.  She works hard (they both do), in the old-fashioned way - the milk cow is milked, the chicken are fed, eggs are searched for, land is dug, potatoes are planted, and the pony and trap is taken to the village for shopping.  It's the 1950s, and this summer Annie and her cousin Sarah are to look after two small children, their grandniece and grandnephew, whilst the parents are off to England looking for a job, accommodation and a better life.

The children arrive, are happy to be there, and the cousins are happy to have them.  It's going to be a good summer.  But in the background, little niggles are aired by Annie and suddenly she's not quite as nice as she seems.  Or perhaps she is just human, airing the kind of thoughts we all harbour but never let out.  Several things happen that summer:  the pony attempts to throw off the trap;  Annie sees in the  children the fact that they lie (but then, all children lie - she just finds that hard to come to terms with); and you get to learn some family secrets.  Reading this was like sitting in the garden on a sunny day, and just as you think it will last forever a cloud covers the sun and you get a feeling of trepidation and you hope the cloud will move on.

Every book Sebastian Barry has written is different.  Every one readable, and this one - well, this one is like reading poetry.  Told in the first person by Annie herself, and told in the present time it might take take a while to get used to, but it really is worth the read. 

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