An Irish educator examines the history of Ireland through the story of her grandmother’s life.
In Thorpe’s debut, she tells the life story of her grandmother Bridget O’Rourke, a remarkable woman who successfully raised a family through tough, turbulent years in Ireland. Bridget’s story is, in a way, that of Ireland as well: She grew up listening to her parents lament the lives of loved ones lost in the Famine, then worked for a wealthy man who traveled in Ireland’s literary and political circles; shelived practically next door to Oscar Wilde’s family home, experienced poverty and the effects of the Easter Rising in Dublin, and finally saw the effects of the Home Rule movement even out in the countryside. Bridget’s own life was eventful enough without the history of Irish independence occurring alongside it. She struggled with death, poverty and much more, taking control of her life at a young age and going on to raise seven children. Thorpe’s writing makes it easy to see why she found her grandmother such an inspirational figure. With so much going on, the book can sometimes feel rushed; any stage of Bridget’s life coupled with the story of what was going on in her country could have served as a solid biography. Instead, all the personal and historical events, sometimes in a textbook-style summary, can be overwhelming at times. The book is also full of repetition and awkward, stilted transitions, with inconsistent use of quotation marks when relating something Bridget must have said directly.However, there is a lot of history and a lot of heart here, making for a readable story and a solid lesson in the history of Ireland. Thorpe compellingly incorporates history into her grandmother’s story, always making sure to bring the narrative back to Bridget’s life and personal experience. Resources can be found at the end of the book, including works cited and an appendix of famous people, places and events from Ireland’s history, which add valuable information for readers whose interests are piqued by Bridget’s tale.
Awkward writing aside, a compelling story of a strong, capable woman and the history that surrounded her.