Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly


Hatchett Book Group Early Birds Blog Tour
book 6 of 24 for the A to Z Reading Challenge
genre: historical fiction
rating: 5/5

I have never actually used the phrase "tour de force" when describing a book, but I can't think of anything else that defines a work that covers as much ground as Galway Bay. We meet Honora Kelley when she's a young woman, the world ahead of her, living in a costal village on Galway Bay on the western shores of Ireland. The story begins in the "before times," when Ireland is under the harsh hand of the British and the Irish have little to their name beyond the potato to eat and the joy of each other's company. When Honora finds true love and begins her own family, the situation in Ireland becomes frantically desperate.

I hate to give away much of the plot of a book, but I can't NOT tell you that Honora's journey eventually leads her far from the homeland she loves, because the author's depiction of a mid-19th century immigrant experience is one of the elements of this book that makes it so powerful. I can't imagine the amount of research that went in to creating such a believable depiction of Chicago during that time period. As someone very familiar with Chicago, it was thrilling to read a history of the city between the lines of a story that I could not put down.

Life was not easy for Honora. I didn't bother to count the number of times that the sheer magnitude of trials Honora went through brought me to tears. I rooted for her, I cried for her and the people she loves. As hard as her experiences were, though, I felt like she triumphed. Honora's love of her family, her imperfections, her willingness to scrabble forward, whatever the cost, these qualities made her an incredibly sympathetic and realistic protagonist. The Irish love of stories and tales, song and music are a constant thread throughout, woven through the generations and tying them together.

Galway Bay is a glorious yarn, stretching from the hills and beaches of Ireland to the streets of Chicago. For all of it's 500+ pages, I wouldn't leave out a one. An Irish-American history that must simply be read to be believed.

16 comments:

Miriam said...

Thanks so much, Corinne! Love your line about how it is a glorious yarn! So well-said!

The Mike and Hilarie Dansie Family said...

Okay, you convinced me! I'll be reading this one.

Serena said...

I adored this book as much as you did. I just love reading about the Irish immigrant experience, perhaps because I want to learn about my distant ancestors.

I'm part of the tour as well and hosting a giveaway for this book.

Beth F said...

This does sound great.

Nicole said...

Great review Corinne. I found myself close to tears more times that I could count. I was so touched by the Kelly family and their story.

bethany said...

I was wondering if this one would get good reviews! Thanks so much for your review, I will HAVE to read it if you liked it :)


Happy reading, friend!

Dar said...

Wonderful review. I really liked this book as well.

Holly said...

Wow, great review. Just as lyrical as the book itself.

Toni said...

Love your Review! Happy Blog Tour.. I am having fun with this blog tour. I just have to come to your blog more often. This is a great place!

Melissa said...

I was thinking I was in the mood for a good historical fiction. Guess I found the perfect book.

Trish said...

I think I read somewhere today that she put 35 years worth of research into this book? Glad you liked it so much--sounds like a fantastic read! I think whether we are Irish or not so many of us came from immigrant ancestors and can share a little bit of the story with her.

Luanne said...

Echoing Miriam I love the pharase glorious yarn as well. Wasn't it a great read - I was so sad when it ended!

Book Lover Lisa said...

Great review. I thougth this book was wonderful.

Alyce said...

I liked the parts about Chicago too, but I've never been there. Reading about the history of the city made me want to visit even more.

bermudaonion said...

This book was nothing short of magnificent. Great review.

Anna said...

I just loved this book. I can't say enough good things about. Your review was wonderful, and I'm so glad you liked the book, too.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

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