Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: When Summer's In the Meadow by Niall Williams and Christine Breen

I have heard it said that American tourists to Ireland are invariably tracing their relatives and that the Irish think we are an interesting lot given this geneological mania and subsequent identification as Irish ourselves thanks to our ancestors. I do indeed have Irish blood in my veins (my great-grandmother even had the requisite red hair and fair skin and I suspect she's the source of the freckles that were the bane of my existence as a child) but I don't know that that accounts for my attraction to all things Irish. I think rather that I've romanticized the vibrantly green hills and fields dotted with white sheep that dominate postcards of the country. And given that a British friend mentioned the sheer amount of rain necessary to keep those hills so beautifully green, I might just keep reading about the Emerald Isle rather than visiting it. Thankfully, visiting it in the pages of one of the books in this series is perfectly delightful.

The second book in the series, this is a charming continuation of Williams' and Breen's life in rural Ireland. In their first book, they chronicle their first year living on the small farm in Ireland that was once Christine's grandfather's, shedding their New York existence, and learning the rhythms of the land and farm in their tiny Irish hamlet. This second book then is a more settled account of this quietly fulfilling life they've chosen. Despite the overall feeling of contentment that blankets the writing, there are moments of unhappiness too because such is life. Christine is perhaps not as wedded to staying in Ireland forever as Niall seems to be and both of them are devastated by the news that they are unable to have children. Their decision to pursue adoption is considered, dreaded and anticipated, and becomes a strong thread running through their everyday narrative. There are still moments of learning as one year on the farm has not unveiled all the surprises of rural life and husbandry.

Written mostly by Williams with occasional entries and art work from Breen's diary, the book is a gentle and lovely read. Williams invites the reader not only into their lives but also into their hearts, sharing their deepest hopes and fears as they go through the adoption process. The descriptions of the farm, the animals, and daily life are well-drawn and easily pictured. The contrast of their life now with life in New York, highlighted by a return trip to the city when the first book is being published, serves to reconfirm their choice reminding them of the oftentimes harried, dazzling life they relinquished for their small patch of green Ireland. There is a calmness and a settled happiness to the writing here, offering the reader a quiet, peaceful read. I am quite looking forward to reading the next one.


  1. I spent two weeks in Ireland a few years back and it was enchanting. They have some amazing scenery! However the food was not so good...and we accidentally killed a sheep with our rental car and that cast a pall over the whole trip.

    1. Hi Kristen!
      Just found your blog... Too impressive! What a great reader you are.

      Thanks for the very kind words about our second 'Kiltumper' book.

      All the best,

    2. Hi Kristen,
      Just found your blog. Too impressive! What a great reader you are...

      Many thanks for the kind words about our second 'KiLtumper' book.

      Here's wishing you continued inspiration...
      All the best
      Christine and Niall


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