Harolyn Enis’s When Ireland Fell Silent tells the fictional story of the Reilly family of Mayo, Ireland through the eyes of 18-year-old Liam Reilly. Spanning the years 1845 to 1847, the tale follows the Reillys as they struggle to stay alive and keep their home
during the Great Hunger.
A career educator, Enis has thoroughly researched the Famine and its wake. She skillfully recreates both tenant farmer life and the incomprehensible actions and inactions of the British government and landlords. One of the most memorable parts of the novel is of a wedding. Here, Enis beautifully recreates communal life in pre-Famine Ireland, from the house-raising to the toasts, to the sharing of the wedding cake. This is the happiest time for the characters, before mass evictions and the return of the potato blight tear their world apart.
Enis’s knowledge of history comes close to working against her, as her historical commentary sometimes breaks the novel’s otherwise excellent narrative flow. However, When Ireland Fell Silent is worth reading for Enis’s moving and realistic recreation of a society on the brink of destruction.
(380 pages/Rose Rock Publishers /$25.95)