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review 2019-10-14 14:58
Sweeping Story of the Brodrick Family
Hungry Hill - Daphne Du Maurier

So this to me is not a typical Daphne du Maurier novel. There are hints of some Gothic elements here and there with a curse being flung about. But other than that, du Maurier just follows along following five generations of the Brodrick family from 1820 to 1920 following five of the male characters from the Brodrick family. I have to say that from beginning to end the tale of "Hungry Hill" is going to grab you. And you start to wonder if a curse is really what is affecting certain members of the family or is it simply fate? I loved the writing, the character development, the setting, and ultimately the ending. It seems that in the end, the last male surviving member of that family has changed his family's fate.

 

"Hungry Hill" starts off following a man that is named Cooper John (due to the cooper mine he opens up on Hungry Hill). Cooper John is a widower with two sons (Henry and John) and three daughters. Cooper John is focused on enlarging his family's castle called Clonmere and having enough money left to take care of his children's children. I don't think that Cooper John was a bad man, but he is very black and white on things and he loves his children though he is often left confused and frustrated with his second eldest son, also named John. From there, du Maurier follows the rest of the family line and the book is broken up into parts. From Cooper John we follow Greyhound John, Wild Johnnie, Henry, Hal, and finally we go into the last book called The Inheritance.

 

 

I have to say that all of the sections were fascinating. I don't think you will come away liking most of the people in this book, but you will love reading about them. I think my favorite book though had to be the one with Henry. My least favorite (as much as one was my least favorite) was the one with Hal. I don't want to get into talking too much and spoiling things, but you have to wonder at times if only so and so happened this may have meant a different fate for the characters that follow. Except for the character of Greyhound John, I don't think that any in the Brodrick family loved the land truly. And even then with him, he lost interest in it as soon as he finally gets the woman he has desired. 

 

The Donovan family is another big piece of this book and we find out at the beginning of the book, Cooper John's grandfather was shot in the back by a Donovan. And the Donovan's of the present seem focused on ruining Cooper John and his family's fortune. There seems to be parts superstition and just plain rage towards the Brodrick's and I wonder if du Maurier contemplated showing their side of the story at all. 

 

The writing was so good. I honestly felt sad when I got to the end. I would have loved to read on about this family past the 1920s. The flow was great too. From book to book it makes sense who we follow and why and I always loved books where I can follow characters through decades.


The setting of this book is Ireland in the late 1800s and the first World War. I have to say that it read as different to me than what I expected. I don't know what I thought about Ireland back then, but I honestly didn't know anything about cooper mines existing there. 


The ending of the book though gives a glimmer that a new change is finally coming to the Brodrick clan and with that the end of the supposed curse. 

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text 2019-10-13 20:48
Reading progress update: I've read 408 out of 528 pages.
Hungry Hill - Daphne Du Maurier

My edition only has 408 pages, not 528. Don't know why the pages for the edition is wrong. Other than that, loved this book and could have read even more about the Brodricks.

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review 2019-10-12 11:44
A lyrical and romantic story set in a magical Ireland
Seven Letters - J.P. Monninger

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Because I read an early copy of the story, some of the details mentioned might not fully correspond to the final published version of the book.

I had never read any of the author’s work before, but the description of the setting, the protagonist and her reasons for visiting Ireland drew me in. I had read about the Blasket Islands in a previous book and become fascinated by what I came across, and, personally, I would love to have the opportunity to be a scholar researching the topic, in Ireland. The novel offered me the chance to vicariously live that experience through the main character, and I did enjoy it enormously. The beautiful writing, interspersed with Irish sayings, stories, and references to books were pure delight.

I am not a big reader of romance, and perhaps for that reason, the aspects of the novel that I most enjoyed were not the truly romantic ones, that I found a bit over the top. Kate, the protagonist, has a strong Irish (and Blasket Islands) connection, and she seems more than ready to fall in love —and under the spell— of Ireland, and the islands in particular. I did love the setting of the story, the description of her life at the university, her research, the people she meets there, and I would have loved to know more about some of the secondary characters (the Bicycle  Society members, for example, Gran, Seamus, Daijeet, Dr Kaufman, and even Milly although we learn more about her later). Also, and I suspect I might be in the minority here, I would have loved to have had more details of Kate’s research, for example, samples of the stories she reads and of the book she writes (she is studying women’s accounts of the life in the Blasket Islands before they were abandoned and the few inhabitants left there had to move out), although I know there are accounts published and available, but her work process, and her description of how she felt as she engaged in it resonated with me (yes, I have a PhD and re-experiencing that period was a huge bonus for me).

Of course, Kate’s experience in Ireland would not be complete without a romance, and we meet the man in question very early on, and no, readers don’t need to be avid romance consumers to spot him and know where things are headed. As I said, not being a habitual romance reader, I wasn’t too convinced by that side of things. I never felt we got to know Ozzie well, but that is reasonable in the context of the story, as Kate seems to falls in love/lust with an idea or an image in her head, more than with the real man, and neither one of them give each other much chance to know what they are getting into and who with. Because we see the story from Kate’s perspective, we are expected to see him through rose-tinted glasses, at least initially, although things (and him) don’t fit neatly into the romanticized image she has in her head. (Oh, there are sex scenes as well, but they are not explicit and are overly romantic and totally unrealistic, but hey, as I don’t like sex scenes, I was pleased they were not many and didn’t mind they were unrealistic). Theirs is the perfect embodiment of a whirlwind romance. As we all know, the course of true love never did run smooth, and there are separations, trials, and many obstacles in the way, some that go well beyond what most people would expect from a typical novel in this genre, and deal in some very serious issues (like the Mediterranean refugee crisis), so although this is a romantic novel, it is not a light and cheery read (although yes, there is the mandatory happy ending that I won’t spoil for you).

The structure and the way the story is told is quite original, as it revolves around letters, the seven letters of the title, some formal and official, some personal, and they help create the backbone of the novel, written in the first person, from Kate’s perspective. In fact, although the novel is classed as a romance (and I’ve mentioned some of the more conventional romantic aspects of the story), for me it seemed to fit better into the Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story (although the character is perhaps a bit older than most of these kinds of characters tend to be), and it is written as if it were a memoir, where the letters serve as anchors, points around which the protagonist organizes her memories of the events, because although the story is told chronologically, it is not linear and there are jumps in time, during which life has gone on and settled, but the narration is only retrieved when something of some significance to Kate’s journey and to her relationship with Ozzie takes place. (There are scenes that showed potential, for example, an archeological trip Kate gets involved in, but it ends up becoming only a setting for an encounter with Ozzie, and we are given no details as to what else might have happened during the trip). Although she is not the typical innocent-abroad of many XIX and early XX century novels, she does not know herself, her trip abroad changes things and she goes back to the USA a changed woman, although there are many more things that she must learn, not only about herself but also about others, before the end of the book. Her process of discovery felt realistic, and I empathized with her struggle between her idea of what her life should be like, what her heart wants, and her attempts to reconcile the two, if possible.  Oh, there is also a prologue including a lovely Irish story about a man falling in love with a fairy woman, although, to me, in this case Kate plays the part of the man —who cannot settle in the magical land and misses home— and Ozzie that of the fairy woman.

I agree with comments that say perhaps the story would have gained in depth and become more realistic if some part of it had been told from Ozzie’s point of view, but, considering Ozzie’s backstory, that would have been a completely different book, and one that would have taken the focus away from the romantic angle.

In sum, this is a story I enjoyed, and I don’t hesitate in recommending it to romance readers, in particular to lovers of Ireland and anything Irish. There are many elements that make the story worthy of reading even for those who are not big on romance, especially the setting, the beautiful language, and the protagonist, who although flawed and contradictory, loves books, scholarship, her friends, Ireland and has a wonderful zest for life. The descriptions, not only of Ireland, but also of New Hampshire, Italy, and other settings, take readers on a lyrical journey, and I was sorry it came to an end. Oh, and there’s a wonderful dog too.

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review 2019-09-20 22:30
THE COMPLETENESS OF CELIA FLYNN by Sedonia Guillone
The Completeness of Celia Flynn - Sedonia Guillone
Celia is in love with her three best friends.  She knows what her mother will say so she runs away.  WWI starts and all the men go off to war.  Her fiancé is killed and her three best friends come back wounded.  She now has the chance to start over again with them.  Will she have the courage?
 
I enjoyed this book.  Celia is like most of us.  She lets others define how she is to live her life.  Her boys need her and she needs to overlook the disapproval of her mother.  I liked the naturalness of the relationship between her, Robert, Patrick, and Freddie.  I could understand her decision. 
 
I appreciate that the short story, The Satisfaction of Celia Flynn, was included.  I liked knowing what happened down the road with them. 
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text 2019-09-13 08:42
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