This is another of my boss’s books that she has given to me to read. I’ve only had this one sitting around my house for about two and a half years. Recently I gave her back a book she loaned me that she had completely forgotten about.
I’ve reviewed two of Sebastian Barry’s other books here on PfP over the past couple of years, The Secret Scripture and The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. These two both focused on different branches of the McNulty family of County Sligo, Ireland. This novel takes place in County Wicklow, Ireland, in the summer of 1959. Our eponymous protagonist, Annie Dunne, is a woman in her late fifties who has lately come to Wicklow to live on her cousin Sarah’s farm. Both women are “spinsters,” but have found what Annie describes as a contented partnership on the farm, working together to keep the place afloat. The summer we spend with Sarah and Annie also has a couple of other visitors: Annie’s grand niece and nephew, whose names are never revealed, come to stay because their parents are moving to London and they want to get everything all set up before bringing the kids over. The interesting thing is that the childrens’ father is Annie’s nephew, who she helped to raise after his mother (Annie’s sister) had some sort of nervous breakdown when her kids were young.
The tone of this novel is, for lack of a better description, peaceful and nostalgic with a hint of ominous foreboding. The twentieth century is encroaching on the largely rural County Wicklow, and Annie and Sarah are about to become obsolete. I really enjoyed this book, as I’ve enjoyed all of Sebastian Barry’s books that I’ve read. Not a lot happens in this one; it’s just the story of all the little events, both large and small, that make up this summer in Annie Dunne’s life. I don’t know that plot summary of a book like this is really very useful, because it’s more a character study than a plot-driven narrative. It really is lovely, though, and the next time Bethany and I decide that we want to pick out books for each other to read, I think I’m going to have her read this one. By the way, we did choose some books for each other. We’ll read them and post about them one of these days.