Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow’s house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken…

Another fantastic novel by Hannah Kent! I was very lucky to find a copy of this book at a library – it is quite popular!

Nora Leahy has lost both her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is left alone to care for her grandson, Micheal. Micheal cannot walk or talk, and as Nora finds herself struggling to care for him, she hires Mary, a 14 year old girl, to help.

Nance Roche has the knowledge. She has a connection to the Good People. She uses herbs and potions to help heal those who need her help. Nora and Mary seek out Nance’s help to heal Micheal, who they think has been taken by Them.

This novel is emotionally powerful, and it really draws you in. I felt that I was an observer in this story, and saw myself in the environment – feeling the mud on my feet, the heat of fire, the icy cold of the river. I found myself actually being in the story as a character in the background, rather than just reading the story.

Hannah’s writing style really draws you in. The story is quite intense, and not something you can read in only one or two days. However, it is really easy to follow, even as the narrative moves between characters. I also relished the fact that this book didn’t have a “happy ending”, but rather the ending was left open in a way that allows readers to wonder what might happen next.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, and it will stay with me for a long time.


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