4.0 out of 5 stars Creaks a bit, but still afloat
The start of the novel was splendid, but his obsession with Lord Kingscourt’s sex life definitely detracts from the book. At the center of the story are also love stories, loves which are thwarted, perverted, destroyed by the Kingscourt men. Unfortunately, they all therefore lack depth in a novel of this scope. The famine aspect is covered in blistering detail, then forgotten.
Kingscourt’s character is by far the most compelling in the novel, yet we learn little about him apart from the surface material until very near the end, by which time it is nearly too late. Mary is a cipher for the most part, as is Laura, his wife. Pius Mulvey becomes increasingly monstrous as the book goes on, to the point of him not even being human any more.
His willingness to do anything to survive which is commented upon by the author in the context of Kingscourt and the doctor Mangan’s conversation in the latter half of the book, does not excuse what he’s done. He blights the woman he claims to love his whole life and still expects her to come back to him.
The book becomes so Dickensian it loses its humanity and appeal. Even the name Pius is used with heavy handed irony.
Still, for its descriptions of Connemara, and the Famine, almost all accurate and very well researched, it is well worth reading. (even if it has been done better elsewhere). For some great books on Ireland and the famine, read Shannon Farrell’s historical romance novels of the period.