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Feature book: A Distant Horizon

29 September 2021

A Distant Horizon by AnneMarie Brear

Series: Distant Series #1
Subgenre: historical saga
Release date: 1 Jun 2021
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 302 pages
RRP: $3.99 (ebook); $25.05 (print)

We all love Ireland, don’t we? That green island jewel with the stunning scenery and big-hearted folks?

Absolutely not so in the middle of the Great Famine—or the Great Hunger—a grim and deadly period from about 1845-1852. The potato crops, a staple for the Irish, were attacked by a terrible blight. Instead of firm healthy potatoes the crops failed year after year into inedible black mush. That left no seed potatoes for future crops, no food to sell and no income; peasants being the hardest hit. With no money to buy food or pay the rent they were ruthlessly evicted from their homes, utterly bereft. During those dark years about a million Irish starved to death and a further 2.5 million people fled the country, emigrating to places like America or Australia.

My heart weeps for those poor, wretched people.

This is the first fiction book I’ve read that opens in Mayo, Ireland, 1851, when the famine is biting hard. Oh AnneMarie Brear, how desperate these people are …!

Ellen Kittrick has four young children with husband Malachy. He’s out ‘looking for work’ but is actually drinking away their last paltry coins in any bar he can find. Ellen has a bit of work at the local manor, an Englishman’s manor no less, and a cow at home, but their food is scant. When the children collected seaweed to eat for dinner, my heart sank. This little family is teetering on starvation if all they have to eat is cornmeal soaked in milk for breakfast, and seaweed stew with a couple of tiny crabs for dinner.

Yet they have more than others! It’s a horrendously tough time. Her parents, grandparents and sister survive on fresh fish caught by the men in their small leaky boats. Occasionally they can spare some for Ellen. Malachy is absolutely no help, and Malachy’s brother keeps urging Ellen to bring the children to his farm. Somehow or other he’s coming through this famine surprisingly well, and Ellen wonders if he’s in league with the English. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, and his obvious lechery towards her dismays her.

The rent comes due. Neither her parents nor Ellen and Malachy have the money to pay. They know the landlords will turn them out and set fire to their houses to ensure no-one squats in them. In an appalling string of events the worst becomes inevitable, even as Ellen faces some sudden, shocking deaths in her family. Misery piled on misery.

The story that follows is incredible. An Englishman, Rafe Hamilton, unexpectedly enables the family to board a ship sailing to Australia, fortunately not like the ‘coffin ships’ sailing to America. The description of their voyage is amazing. Ellen proves her mettle time after time. She is a strong survivor, a natural leader, very fierce and protective as she guards her family.

When they land in Sydney it seems almost impossible at first to seek the life she dreams of having. Or is it? Do not underestimate Ellen, she is amazing! (As are the descriptions of early Sydney.)

The story takes some very surprising turns then ends on a cliff-hanger, to be concluded in the sequel Beyond the Distant Hills, due out in October. Can’t wait.

reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

One Comment
  1. 29 September 2021 7:18 am

    Thank you, Malvina and ARRA, for the lovely review. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it, Malvina.

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