Klondike House is a quite beautiful memoir of rural Ireland, in this case the Eyeries region in Cork written by John Dwyer, a local lad who grew up in the area.
Eyeries is in the Beara Peninsula, one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, a place still untouched in many ways by the modern world and the book reflects that sense of time slowing down.
Dwyer brings a keen eye and a fine simple writing style to his observations and daily occurrences of life.
He has a way with descriptive prose, especially the rhythms of farming life.
He begins with the story of his school days. Even though he began there in 1978, there was still no electricity in the school and the day finished at 3 so all could be home before dark.
Home was the family farm and he has a store of stories about the land. There is an hilarious chapter about a ram who took on his whole family including the dog when they tried to capture it.
The description of cutting turf is so well illustrated you can feel yourself actually being there.
itnessing an ancient skill that is quickly vanishing in Ireland.
There is a wonderful description of the Ogham stone, over 2,000 years old, which is not far from his farmhouse and what the inscription and the ogham itself means.
It dates back to druidic times, increasing the sense of timelessness which is such a feature of rural Ireland.
Cutting and saving the hay is another ritual of a rural Ireland upbringing and John Dwyer examines how his father and grandfather so expertly did it. The hay had to be saved before the August Bank Holiday regatta in nearby Castletownbere. The amount of skill and hard work involved in even the most mundane farming task is well illustrated.
The rituals of milking cows and indeed, of bulls mating with cows are described in rich detail. The bull that became so amorous he couldn't wait and got impaled on the spikes around the field where the cows were is a story expertly told, as is the skill involved in getting the animals ready for fair day and the day itself.
The memoir takes its name from a relative who went to the Klondike during the Gold Rush and later moved to Butte, Montana, while digging out a ditch they found a letter opener with a Butte, Montana inscription.
That leads John in later years on a voyage of discovery to discover a relative, John who left for America and he eventually tracks his grave down in Phoenix, Arizona far from the fields of the Beara Peninsula .
The final chapter features an account of that extraordinary journey, one that ended with the satisfaction of finding the grave of his relative John Bawn Dwyer, so far from home.
A lovely quiet book, which evokes an Ireland quickly passing.
Available from JohnDwyerbooks.com
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