Legacy of Hunger

Written by Christy Nicholas
Review by Jen Black

This is less a novel than a travelogue of a young American girl’s journey to Ireland in 1846 during the famine caused by potato blight. Her aim is to search for a mysterious Celtic brooch and the relatives who are said to own it, but I finished the book feeling that the brooch was rather incidental and that the social conditions in Ireland were the most important thread. Our heroine doles out money to starving peasants as if she has an unlimited supply, at a time when getting money from the US to Ireland must have been tricky.

The language seems very American to my English eyes, as of course it would be since the author and protagonist are both American. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, and there is a tendency toward repetition, but the author has certainly done her research. There is no reason to doubt any statement she makes about Irish affairs. There are some odd phrases scattered about, such as: ‘[Valentia] was having difficulty in finding the right in this snake’s nest.’ Phrases such as ‘it is what it is’ and ‘He well appreciated it’ are far too idiomatic and modern to suit the time. ‘Odd little posset tied to her left wrist’ made me wonder if the word ‘posy’ would have been the better choice.

This is not a romance in any sense but the one between the author and Ireland. If you revel in Irish history and folklore, even a little magic, then it will be an enjoyable read. If you have no interest in such things, then perhaps give this title a miss.

e-book reviewed