Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Song of suffering

It's a book of historical fiction geared toward middle-school students, but it is one of the most moving descriptions of the Great Famine in Ireland that I have read.

Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff is the fictional story of a young girl who struggles through the worst period of suffering in Ireland during the 19th-century. Beginning in 1845, readers learn of the beauty of the west coast and the sad fate of the residents who remain on its shores during one of the most devasting times in the history of Ireland.

The author has based this story on years of research, including the study of her own personal family history. It is a tale of culture and family, of overlords and tragedies, of suffering and hope. Nory's sister, like many of the Irish, has left for America. Nory's story mirrors that of young girls of the time who heard tales of a new world "where no one was ever hungry". She lives from day to day struggling for survival and hoping for the grace to see that kind of place she dreams of someday.

Patricia Reilly Giff's book Maggie's Door is the sequel to Nory Ryan's Song.

Note: Several reviewers have given a suggested reading level of ages 9-12 for this book. Because of the vivid descriptions of the suffering of the people of Ireland throughout the story, I suggest that it be reserved for readers ages 12 and up.

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