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…
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I was sent a digital copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am reading this book on behalf of Rosie Amber’s book review team. #RBRT. Thank you very much to the author, Gifford MacShane and to Rosie.
Set during the tragedy that was the Great Potato Famine in early nineteenth century Ireland, this short novella is gripping and difficult to put down and I read it over the course of one day. It follows the fortunes of Molly, a young woman who has lost her Da and her Ma to starvation and a broken heart respectively. Her two brothers are both very sick when we meet her and she has come to the conclusion that in order to feed them she will have to turn to prostitution since her job breaking rocks for a road to be built is not earning enough money for the three of them.
Luckily for her and her youngest brother, Johnny, she is spotted by the hero of the tale, John Patrick Donovan. A well-off businessman with a kindly heart he decides there and then to marry her and save both her and Johnny’s lives in the process. Unfortunately it is too late for her other brother, William.
Johnny was my favourite character in the story with his wit and charming smile. John Patrick is certain his nieces will have their heads turned by Johnny when they all return to Wexford together.
The plight of Ireland during this time is well described by the author and easily imagined, as is the fate of Molly and her brother, had John Patrick not chanced upon her:
“The old men had died first, and only a half-dozen of the fathers were still alive. The boys who could were working on the road gang. The women were weak—so weak they were unable to bear more children. The younger among them were confined to the workhouse. The old women were gone, too, except for Mother O’Fagan, a white witch said to live on the air she breathed. The chickens and pigs had been eaten these past two years or more. Even the benches were gone, except for the one that ringed the tree in the square. Father Boylan had arranged for them to be sold this past spring, and had spent the proceeds on corn meal and salt cod to feed the most needy of his flock. The food had not gone far, and most of those who had partaken were gone now, too.”
The Winds of Morning was a most enjoyable read full of historical detail and engaging storytelling. I highly recommend it.
About the Author
Gifford MacShane is the author of historical fiction that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.
Her novels feature a family of Irish immigrants who settle in the Arizona TerritoryWith an accessible literary style, MacShane draws out her characters’ hidden flaws and strengths as they grapple with both physical and emotional conflicts.
Singing almost before she could talk, MacShane has always loved folk music, whether it be Irish, Appalachian, or the songs of the cowboys. Her love of the Old West goes back to childhood, when her father introduced her to the works of Zane Grey. Later she became interested in the Irish diaspora, realizing her ancestors must have lived through An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s. Writing allows her to combine her three great interests into a series of family stories, each with a central romance, traditional song lyrics, and a dash of Celtic mysticism.
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One thought on “The Winds of Morning by Gifford MacShane”
Thank you Sue.