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Review: Away, by Jane Urquhart

Pages: 356
Original date of publication: 1993
My edition: 1993 (Penguin Books)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Philly used bookstore, July 2012

Although the back cover of the book states that the book is about several generations of one family, Away only really focuses on two generations: Mary, who experiences a vision when a stranger washes up on the Irish shore. To release her from her “demons,” she must marry, and with her husband Brian has two children: Liam and Eileen, on whom most of the second half of the novel focuses. From the Irish potato famine to the Canadian wilderness, this is a pretty amazing story about familial bonds.

The story is structured pretty well, and I loved the historical details. There are some truly interesting characters, too, in particular the two eccentric Sedgewick brothers, the Irish landowners who dabble in naturalism; and the mysterious Aiden Lanighan, with who Eileen falls in love. But particularly interesting was Eileen herself, who turns out to be much stronger and resilient than she appears at first. I especially loved how she handled her decision at the end of the book and her overall strength of purpose. It really made me interested in finding out what would happen to her. I also really enjoyed Jane Urquhart’s prose; it’s almost poetical.

However, I didn’t particular like the modern-day part of the novel that focuses on Esther; I think that it would have been much better served if the author had left it out altogether. As it was, Esther wasn’t a particularly well-rounded character or particularly interesting.


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