I recently listened to all three books in the Children of the Famine trilogy, and have decided to write a review for all three in one post.
Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although this book is written for children and the main characters are children, I had trouble associating the book for children. It felt and read like a book written for adults about children.
For a classic, I wonder why I had never heard of the book, or the series (Children of the Famine) before I spotted the cover in my local elibrary for download.
Putting these two things aside, Under the Hawthorn Tree captured my attention. It’s a brilliantly crafted work set in the mid 1800s (I believe) and tells the story of the Great Potato Famine. Of course, I had heard of the famine but knew very little about it. The author painted a clear, believable image of how the people lived and suffered during what must have been a terrifying time.
Eily, Michael and Peggy are the three children in the story. They find themselves alone and desperate when their mother leaves them to look for their father. When things turn sour, the three decide to travel across Ireland to find their great aunts. It’s a story of love, courage, determination and desperation.
It is difficult not to put yourself in their little shoes and wonder if we had to do the same, would we manage, let alone survive?
It’s a heart-warming story, filled with scenarios I never hope to experience. Recommended.
Wildflower Girl by Marita Conlon-McKenna
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The sequel to Under the Hawthorne Tree, Wildflower Girl, is told from Peggy’s point of view. She’s the youngest of the three children.
Seven years have passed, Peggy is now 13 years old, and many Irish have left their country to make a new life elsewhere. Eily is to be married, and Michael has found his dream job as a stable boy. There are few jobs to be had, and Peggy fears she will always be nothing more than a helper for her older sister, Eily. So when the opportunity arrives to go to America, Peggy is keen, but her siblings are not. She wins the argument and goes on her own.
The book tells the story of hope, dreams, hardship and mistreatment. The story moves fast and gives a good account of the travel by ship from Ireland to Boston.
Once in America, Peggy is on her own and must find a way to support herself. Again, I cannot imagine anyone her age starting an adventure of this kind. I would be terrified the entire time. But, the thing is, young people of that time did emigrate to another country.
Fields of Home by Marita Conlon-McKenna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fields of Home is my favourite book in the series, and as far as I’m concerned, a book written for adults about children, who are no longer children.
Six or seven years have passed, and the children have grown up. Peggy, the youngest, is around 19 and she is still working as a maid. Michael is still a stable boy in the Great House in Ireland. Eily is married with two children of her own and living on a farm with her husband and Great Aunt Nano.
While the story has heartbreak and struggling, hope is strong, and the siblings still show signs of strength. The story is told from all three points-of-view. We see how the carpet is pulled out from beneath all of them and then witness how they pull their lives back together. The siblings help each other even though they have barely anything to give. It warmed my heart to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it for so many reasons, but the most important is love.