Annie Dunn / Sebastian Barry

This novel is set in the late 1950s and takes the reader to a remote part of County Wicklow.  There, two elderly Irish women, Annie Dunn and her cousin Sarah, are just managing to scratch out a meager existence.  It is a time when a way of life is disappearing as a mechanized world encroaches on ancient traditions.  With summer’s arrival, Annie’s nephew and his wife ask her to care for their two small children, a daughter and son, when they travel to London to find work.   The children’s arrival is not the only change the women are dealing with, as the budding possibility of a romance for Sarah proves an even bigger disruption to the household’s tranquility.  Barry does a marvelous job of recreating the rhythm of daily life in this remote corner of Ireland, and embedding Annie’s past history as an integral part of the story.  Born with a hunched back, Annie has issues with self-esteem and is carrying the weight of a lifetime of unresolved emotional issues.  Barry excels at portraying the bickering that goes on in such a tight-knit community, and yet when needed, how they provide support for each other despite personal grievances.  Set over the course of a single season, it is a summer during which, on the surface, very little happens.  Nonetheless, before its end, an epiphany unfolds for Annie.  It is a story that details her coming to terms with the past’s ghosts and reconciling with the present. Barry’s prose is lyrical and poetic as he imbues this simple tale with unexpected depth.


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