Cover image for Annie Dunne
Annie Dunne
Barry, Sebastian, 1955-
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Waterville, ME : Thorndike Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
336 pages ; 23 cm
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X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

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It is 1959 in Wicklow, Ireland, and Annie and her cousin Sarah are living and working together to keep Sarah's small farm running. Suddenly, Annie's young niece and nephew are left in their care. Unprepared for the chaos that the two children inevitably bring, but nervously excited nonetheless, Annie finds the interruption of her normal life and her last chance at happiness complicated further by the attention being paid to Sarah by a local man with his eye on the farm. A summer of adventure, pain, delight, and, ultimately, epiphany unfolds for both the children and their caretakers in this poignant and exquisitely told story of innocence, loss, and reconciliation.

Author Notes

Sebastian Barry is a playwright whose work has been produced in London, Dublin, Sydney, and New York. He lives in Wicklow, Ireland, with his wife and three children.

Sebastian Barry is an Irish writer and playwright, born in 1955. He is the author of two novels, A Long Long Way and Days Without End, which won the Costa Book Award for best novel. His other awards include the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year, the Independent Booksellers Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

SOP for American best-sellers--make the protagonists mostly rich and beautiful, 'cause no one wants to read about the poor and ugly--is crushed by the weight of Irish playwright Barry's utterly hypnotic, small novel. Annie Dunne, crippled in body and spirit, is so poor that only the generosity of her cousin, the once-fair Sarah, keeps her from the workhouse in the late 1950s in rural County Wicklow. Annie helps Sarah keep up the family farm--barely, for the work is almost beyond the two aging women's combined strength. They are what we would now call domestic partners, adapted to one another in the subtle way of long-married people. Although they share a bed, there isn't a hint of sexual impropriety between them. Yet unexpressed desire suffuses their lives, making the small farm a passionately loved place. Barry is especially good at describing the sensuousness of rural life, as when Annie bestows her love on an apple tree as old and gnarled as she; he allows not a whiff of ironic condescension as he reveals the thwarted wildness of that love. When a man, somewhat Sarah's junior and ambitious for land, begins courting Sarah, Annie lives in dread that she might lose her home and her cousin's company. Violence threatens on every page, and the final chapters are breathtaking and driven. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Irish playwright and novelist Barry's gift for image and metaphor (The Whereabouts of Aneas McNulty) are equaled here by his eye for descriptive detail. This moving story is narrated by the eponymous Annie Dunne, who, in her 60s, has come to live with her cousin Sarah on an impoverished farm in Kelsha, County Wicklow. Plain and poor, and afflicted with a humpback since a childhood attack of polio, Annie is grateful to Sarah for taking her in. She loves the farm and attacks the backbreaking daily chores with fierce ardor. But when a scheming handyman on a neighboring farm begins to court Sarah, Annie sees her livelihood threatened and fights back with the only weapons in her arsenal: bitterness and rage. Complicating the events of the summer spanned by the plot are the two young children left in Annie's care by her nephew, who's gone off to London. As Annie is terrified to admit, even to herself, the children have their own dark secret, too fearsome to contemplate. Veering between dread, anger and shame, Anne's thoughts are also a mixture of whimsical observations, nave ideas and a poetic appreciation of the natural world. This compassionate portrait of a distraught woman mourning the years of promise and dreams that were "narrowed by the empty hand of possibility" is a masterful feat of characterization, all the more vivid against the backdrop of rural Ireland in the 1950s, undergoing changes that throw Annie's life into sharper focus. (Aug. 26) Forecast: Booksellers should have no trouble handselling this book to discriminating readers who love beautiful prose and a richly textured story. Four-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Oh, Kelsha is a distant place, over the mountains from everywhere. You go over the mountains to get there, and eventually, through dreams. *** I can picture the two children in their coats arriving. It is the start of the summer and all the customs of winter and spring are behind us. Not that those customs are tended to now, much. My grand-nephew and grand-niece, titles that sound like the children of a Russian tsar. My crab-apple tree seems to watch over their coming, like a poor man forever waiting for alms with cap in hand. There is a soughing in the beech trees and the ash, and the small music of the hens. Shep prances about like a child at a dance with his extra coat of bog muck and the yellow effluents that leak into yards where dogs like to lie. The children's coats are very nice coats, city coats. Their mother does not neglect the matter of coats, whatever else I could say about her. But they are too nice for a farmyard existence. We will wrap them in old brown paper and put them in the small blue cupboard in their room, and keep the moths from them as best we can. I herd the children like little calves through the lower leaf of the half-door and into the beautiful glooms of the kitchen. The big sandwiches lie on the scrubbed table, poised like buckled planks on blue and white plates. Words are spoken and I sense the great respect Sarah has for their father Trevor, my fine nephew, magnificent in his Bohemian green suit, his odd, English-sounding name, his big red beard and his sleeked black hair like a Parisian intellectual, good-looking, with deep brown angry eyes. He is handing her some notes of money, to help bring the children through the summer. I am proud of her regard for him and proud of him, because in the old days of my sister's madness I reared him. My poor sister Maud, that in the end could do little but gabble nonsense. The great enterprise now, with Trevor and the children's mother, is to cross the sea to London and see what can be done. There are ony stagnant pools of things to tempt him here in his own country, there is nothing. He has trained himself up by a scholarship and I can smell the smell of hope in him, the young man's coat. But his hope is proficient and true. I have no doubt but that he will find himself and his care a place to lodge, and fetch about him, and gain employment. He has his grandfather's wholeness of purpose, who rose from a common police recruit to be the chief superintendant of B Division in Dublin, the capital of the whole country. His father, Matt, Maud's husband, who as good as threw me from the house when finally she died, may drag his polished boots every morning from that rented house in Donnybrook to the savage margins of Ringsend, where he teaches painting and drawing to children who would as much like to learn them as to eat earwigs. Back and forth on that black bike with his winter lamp and ineffectual bell, thinking only of the summer when he can paint the midgy beauties of Wicklow, cursing his fate. But Trevor has the strength and purpose of another generation, with his red beard. He is kissing the children's heads now and saying goodbye, be good, see you in a few months. "Every day I will write to you," says the little boy, which is comical since he is too young to know his writing. But the father is not listening to the son, he is staring away into nowhere, distracted no doubt by all the things he has to do, the arrangements, the tickets, the prayers that I think will rise up unbidden, though I know he professes to be a Godless man, one of those modern types that would make me fearful if it was not him. "Every day, every day," says the boy emphatically. "I am going to press flowers for you all summer in my autograph album," says the little girl. "There won't be anyone to write their names in it down here." "Look after yourselves in London," I say to him. "And you need not for a moment worry about the children. You will have enough to do setting yourselves up." "As soon as everything's in place, we'll send for them," Trevor says. "Thank you, Aunty Annie. It's an enormous help." 'It's no trouble, God knows. We are lucky to have them" "Don't spoil them," he says. "We will not. But we will look after them, certainly." "Good," Trevor says, and kisses my cheek, and away with him out into the paltry sunlight. He doesn't look back, though the children rush to the door.     Excerpted from Ebk Annie Dunne by Barry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.