BookBrowse Reviews Grace by Paul Lynch

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Grace

by Paul Lynch

Grace by Paul Lynch X
Grace by Paul Lynch
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2017, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Zoë Fairtlough
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A sweeping, Dickensian story of a young girl on a journey across nineteenth-century Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine.

Harrowing. Gorgeous. Epic. Grace, Paul Lynch's coming of age novel about a young woman, is set during the catastrophic Irish potato famine.

Fourteen-year old Grace is cast out by her mother, told only, "You are the strong one now." Grace doesn't understand why she must leave, only that she must. But this is no punishment—her mother is trying to save her. Her hair cut short, her clothes swapped with her absent father's, Grace begins her journey from the poverty of Donegal's Black Mountain to find work and bring money home.

The odds are stacked against her. Grace has no education, no one to guide her. Only after enduring the Great Hunger (see Beyond the Book), and almost dying, can she be reborn, stronger, ready to make her own choices.

Grace finds a job working with cattle, for which she is unqualified but makes the most of. When the herd is stolen, she joins Bart, a bandit. They roam around Ireland, discovering that the famine has altered the country — and themselves — irrevocably. Hunger is everywhere. "Though you can learn to ignore hunger, not give it a single thought, hunger is always thinking of you."

Grace falls gravely ill and is left for dead. She is brought back from the brink, but has lost her ability to speak. All she can do now is observe, a silent witness to her country's distress. Work restores her dignity and, combined with the patience of a good man, enables her final transformation and spiritual regeneration.

Grace picks up the story from Lynch's previous novel Red Sky in Morning, when Grace's father, accused of murder, escapes to America, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves. But it's not necessary to read that book to understand how dire poverty and impending famine offer Grace's mother little choice but to set her daughter on her own so that she might try to fend for herself, the disguise as a boy her only advantage over being born female. It is the new generation that must be strong for Ireland now.

Grace's journey is thrilling enough but Lynch's poetic and cinematic prose endows her with a voice that should make her a classic of Irish literature. "If her finger were a blade it would be sharp and pointed as her hate, she thinks. The things I could do with it." Lynch also has a special ability to write about landscape as though it were another character. "A sky of old cloth and the sun stained upon it." The setting of the relentless Great Hunger, its hovels and graveyards, reveals Grace's strength again and again. Lynch's poignant descriptions of many human details — sleeping rough, the exhaustion from hard physical labor, the elation of eating a square meal, take us deep into Grace's struggles, and what the country must have endured.

Not just another historical novel, Grace is one of the most memorable and unique books I've read. Its themes of despair, responsibility, guilt and hope stayed with me long after I'd finished it. The book is a vivid portrait of a person's struggle against adversity, and of Ireland's terrible famine, made all the worse because its effects could have been mitigated if those of means had wanted it. Such suffering still exists in parts of the world today, and Grace reminds us that those who can help, should. We must not turn away.

Reviewed by Zoë Fairtlough

This review was originally published in August 2017, and has been updated for the June 2018 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Great Hunger

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Heavens
    The Heavens
    by Sandra Newman
    I've been a big fan of Sandra Newman's writing ever since reading her 2014 novel The Country of Ice ...
  • Book Jacket: Sugar Run
    Sugar Run
    by Mesha Maren
    Mesha Maren's debut novel is a plunge into the depths of the dark Southern gothic with pulsing and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Year of the War
    by Susan Meissner

    A little-known story of WWII with great resonance for our times.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.