Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com
Noelle has been reading The Winds Of Morning by Gifford MacShane
This is a novella, written as a prequel Donovan Family Saga by this author. I purchased this book for review.
The author is a gifted writer, with an excellent talent for creating the historical scene of 1848, when the potato crop failed in Ireland. What happened after that is made clear: The Protestant landlords abscond back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves. Rather than providing food to their citizens, the government allows the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily. There follows a period of mass starvation and disease, leading to the deaths of over a million people.
When her father and mother die of starvation, Molly O’Brien has no choice but to take her father’s place on a road gang, swinging a mallet to break rocks for a road running from her tiny village to the nearby river, in order to feed her family. There is no other work available, and even sixteen hours of labor does not pay enough to feed her younger brothers, who are dying of starvation as well.
One day, quietly facing the river, she decides that despite her deep-sown Catholic tenets, she will sell her body to the first man she encounters who will give her the price of a loaf of bread. The first man to see her, John Patrick Donovan, at first thinks she is going to throw herself in the river, but when she asks him for a loaf a bread up front, he realizes she’s decided to prostitute herself. In Donovan, the author has created a gentle, caring, and thoughtful older man who does his best to save Molly and her brothers. His efforts extend to her small village, where the grain he was sent to buy was locked away by the landlord, who had fled: he opens the granary to the villagers, despite what that will cost his family.
When John Patrick takes her to the local church, where the priest informs her she will be married, she nearly faints at the miracle. She and her brothers are saved. John Patrick has fallen in love with her at first sight and knows this is the only way he can protect her honor until she grows stronger and accepts him.
Will his family accept Molly? What will they think of the money their son spent on saving her and her brothers and also in the village? How are his parents, who are well-off because the father runs a chandlery, dealing with the famine? Will Molly come to accept Donovan as her husband?
While this book was a lovely read, part historical and part romance, as are the author’s other books, two things jarred me somewhat. The first was the age difference between John Patrick and Molly. I had to remind myself that this was a different time, when girls married young and older husbands were often the norm. The other was, with few exceptions, the overwhelming ‘niceness’ of all the various characters. I would have preferred a little more grit.
I recommend this lyrically and beautifully rendered novella to readers – despite the grim subject – to discover what happens to Molly and to understand the basis for the Donovan Saga.
1848: the third year the potato crop failed in Ireland. The Protestant landlords have absconded back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves, while the English government allowed the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily.
With two younger brothers to feed, Molly O’Brien took her father’s place on the road gang, building a road that runs from her tiny village to the river and no farther. Yet sixteen hours of labor a day would not garner enough wages to buy food for her family.
She was beyond despair. Beyond prayer. And so far beyond the tenets of her childhood, she’d decided to offer her body to the first man with the price of a loaf of bread. At that moment, a voice behind her spoke…