Summary and book reviews of Grace by Paul Lynch

Grace

by Paul Lynch

Grace by Paul Lynch
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  • Published:
    Jul 2017, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Zoë Fairtlough

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About this Book

Book Summary

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

Early one October morning, Grace's mother snatches her from sleep and brutally cuts off her hair, declaring, "You are the strong one now." With winter close at hand and Ireland already suffering, Grace is no longer safe at home. And so her mother outfits her in men's clothing and casts her out. When her younger brother Colly follows after her, the two set off on a remarkable odyssey in the looming shadow of their country's darkest hour.

The broken land they pass through reveals untold suffering as well as unexpected beauty. To survive, Grace must become a boy, a bandit, a penitent and, finally, a woman-all the while afflicted by inner voices that arise out of what she has seen and what she has lost.

Told in bold and lyrical language by an author who has already been called "one of his generation's very finest novelists" (Ron Rash, author of The Risen), Grace is an epic coming-of-age novel and a poetic evocation of the Irish famine as it has never been written.

Excerpt
Grace

This flood October. And in the early light her mother goes for her, rips her from sleep, takes her from a dream of the world. She finds herself arm-hauled across the room, panic shot loose to the blood. She thinks, do not shout and stir the others, do not let them see Mam like this. She cannot sound-out anyhow, her mouth is thick and tonguing shock, so it is her shoulder that speaks. It cracks aloud in protest, sounds as if her arm were rotten, a branch from a tree snapped clean. From a place that is speechless comes the recognition that something in the making up of her world has been unfixed.

She is drawn to the exit as if harnessed to her mother, her body bent like a buckling field implement, her feet blunt blades. A knife-cut of light by the door. Her eyes fight the gloom to get a fasten on her mother, see just a hand pale as bone vised upon her wrist. She swings her free fist, misses, swings at the dark, at the air complicit, digs her heels into the floor. Will ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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, of Ireland's terrible famine, made all the worse because it was avoidable and addressable if those of means had wanted it.   (Reviewed by Zoë Fairtlough).

Full Review Members Only (565 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lynch's wonderful third novel follows a teenage girl through impoverished Ireland at the height of the Great Famine... Lynch's powerful, inventive language intensifies the poignancy of the woe that characterizes this world of have-nothings struggling to survive.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. This is a writer who wrenches beauty even from the horror that makes a starving girl think her 'blood is trickling over the rocks of my bones.'

Author Blurb Edna O'Brien
A beautifully written novel, with a haunting story and deep echoes of the Ancients.

Author Blurb Affinity Konar, author of Mischling
Grace is fierce wonder, a journey that moves with the same power and invention as the girl at its center. What Paul Lynch brings to these pages is more than mere talent-it's a searing commitment to story and soul, and in witnessing Grace's transformations, one can't help but feel changed too. This novel is faith, poetry, lament, and triumph; its mark is not only luminous, but it promises to never fade.

Author Blurb Donal Ryan, author of The Spinning Heart
Grace is a mesmerizing, incandescent work of art. Each exquisite sentence binds its own separate spell. It's all things together, but never lets its own weight be felt...Above all and through all it's a perfect story, an exhilarating, odyssean, heart-pounding, glorious story, wrought by a novelist with the eye and the ear and the heart of an absolute master of his trade. Paul Lynch is peerless.

Author Blurb Will Chancellor, author of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall
If you took the most overwhelming and distilled moments of a life-those instants when even a small brush of the wind over a stream seems to speak to the whole problem of living-and scattered them along an Irish riverside during that country's great famine, you might arrive at Grace. This is a major work of lasting, powerful feelings that might find a place amidst your memories of Light in August and Huckleberry Finn.

Author Blurb Belinda McKeon, author of Tender
The power of Paul Lynch's imagination is truly startling; his ability to inhabit and deeply understand the moments, both slight and shattering, of a life and of an era translates into an instinct not just for story, but for the most hidden, most forceful currents of language and what they can do.

Author Blurb Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
Grace is a novel of surpassing beauty and moral weight, and Lynch is a prodigious talent, with a sorcerer's command of the language and an extraordinary artistic integrity. This is a masterwork.

Author Blurb Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome and The Evening Road
From the savage scalp-shearing of its start, through pages of figurative and literal black, to the 'good blue days' of its end, Grace is a thing of power and of wonder. Paul Lynch writes novels the way we need them to be written: as if every letter of every word mattered. This whole book is on fire.

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Beyond the Book

The Great Hunger

Grace is set in an Ireland devastated by The Great Hunger—the potato famine of 1845-1852, which occurred when three successive harvests failed due to blight, causing a million people to starve to death and at least as many to emigrate for a better life. Ireland, Britain and America have all been shaped by its political, economic and social effects.

The blight, Phytophthora infestans — literally "infesting plant destroyer" — had arrived in Ireland from the Americas many years earlier but its impact would not have been disastrous had it not been for the confluence of two factors: unusually cool, wet weather for consecutive years, and the population's heavy reliance on two potato varieties particularly prone to the blight...

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