‘An Untilled Field’ is set in the late 1800′s and skilfully weaves accounts of simultaneous lives in the west of Ireland and in London. A common theme is the hardship encountered by those trying to survive in testing times. As the plots unfold, with the tenacity of the main characters coming alive on the page, the author succeeds in eliciting empathy for those afflicted by ruthlessness and exploitation. The main protagonists are not one dimensional, whilst the struggles of tenant farmers to hold onto their land is unequal, some are not prepared to accept their fate without a flight back. The past of some of the characters, such as the villainous land agent, is only hinted at, leaving something to the imagination of the reader. The backdrop of life in the Victorian era for differing classes is well observed. There is no attempt to over-sentimentalise conditions, yet the serious topic is relieved by some lighter moments – bare knuckle fighter Bernie’s wry sense of humour is an example. This book is clearly well researched and gives an insight into the everyday fortunes of those in rural Ireland and in London.
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