Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: When Summer's In the Meadow by Niall Williams and Christine Breen

When Summer's In the Meadow by Niall Williams and Christine Breen picks up where their first book O Come Ye Back to Ireland (my review) leaves off at the conclusion of their first full year living in rural Ireland.  In this latest installment, Niall and Christine learn they cannot have a child and start on the journey to adoption.  When they bring baby Deirdre home, she adds another dimension to their chosen life on the farm and they discover their chosen home of West Clare all over again.

The couple's first year on the farm after moving from bustling NYC to rural West of Ireland was filled with struggles as they battled the elements to eke out a living on their farm and tried to adjust to a new culture. As they head into their second year, however, the couple has hit their stride.  They revel in their small farm and their new found skills as farmers. They have come to rely on their neighbors in the village and learned the idiosyncrasies of rural life.  This shift from being more comfortable on the busy streets of NYC to being more comfortable in the fields of their farm in Kiltumper is evidenced when they return to Manhattan for a short visit after their first book is accepted for publication.  Niall describes their first day in the city:

Outside on the streets again we were like leaves in the wind. We've both lost the NY attitude and betray ourselves terribly by looking at things. New Yorkers don't look but seem to stride, gliding fast forward between offices and apartments with the certain knowledge that all around them and over them is a city so extraordinarily various that nothing it throws up in front of you is surprising anymore....Windows of dazzling jewels and expensive clothes don't necessarily stun you, for why should they, New Yorkers seem to say . . . tenaciously holding to a belief in the possibility of all things. This, more than anything, marks the foreignness of the city for both of us now. It is the thing we are most unused to, this attitude of confidence in the future, of certainty in attaining a goal.
 While they are settled in on the farm and comfortable in their decision to leave NY and live in Ireland, Niall and Christine struggle with coming to terms with the fact that they cannot have a baby and anxiously begin the adoption process in Ireland.  They are  thrilled when they bring baby Deirdre home and they rediscover the joy of rural living as they watch their new baby discover the joys of the farm for the first time. They are plagued by anxiety, however, as they wait for the adoption to become final - they cannot imagine baby Deirdre being taken back from them.

My Thoughts
Co. Mayo, Ireland
Yet another delightful installment from Kiltumper! I enjoyed continuing to read about Christine and Niall's adventures in rural Ireland and the shift in focus to their personal struggle with infertility. I would, however, still recommend starting with  O Come Ye Back to Ireland - it best captures the disorientation experienced when one moves to a new country and it is fascinating to watch the couple discover things about their new life in West Clare. When Summer's In the Meadow is more reflective as Niall and Christine consider how far they have come since first moving to Ireland.  The discoveries in this book are seen more through the eyes of their daughter - as Deirdre grows, explores and discovers during her first year of life on the farm, Christine and Niall see the farm and the life they have chosen in new ways and reap different benefits from their rural idyll. I definitely look forward to reading the next installment and seeing what else is in store for this family and especially for the peeks into the rural West of Ireland. 


  1. Hm, the west of Ireland - that's where my family is from (a few generations ago - 1850s). I need to read this series. Thanks for telling us about them!

    1. I definitely recommend them - they are very well written and present a very authentic peek into life in the West of Ireland. My Mom is from the West (Mayo) and we would go back every year to the farm where my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived and this memoir reminded me of a lot of those visits.

  2. I'm avoiding series books at the moment, but I can see why you are entranced by this one. Your photo of Ireland reminds me of the West Country of England, home of my husband's family.

  3. These are lovely books, aren't they? I've read the first two and have the next one here to read as well.

  4. Sounds like a really fun read. I've linked to your review on the Ireland Challenge page.