Fields of Home
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Fields of Home
Illustrated by Donald Teskey
This is the third book in Conlon-McKenna's 'Children of the Famine' trilogy, already something of a modern classic in its account of Ireland and the Irish diaspora in the last half of the nineteenth century. The two earlier titles, Under the Hawthorn Tree and Wildflower Girl, trace the fortunes of three children, Eily, Michael and Peggy as they struggle to survive in famine-stricken Ireland. Peggy goes to the United States to find a better life and Eily and Michael make lives for themselves against a background of agrarian unrest and social upset. In Fields of Home Eily is herself a mother, Peggy is making her way as a domestic servant ix and dangerous mission for these same characters. Alongside this there is a wonderful density now to the fantasy both in the plot and the telling - the children have to move well beyond Alice in solving the mystery. The story of the journey through islands and fields of dream for the key to the Dream Snatcher's motives is stunningly done and the sharply realised texture of dreams, the exotic locations and rich characterisation make this my favourite. In the latest addition to the series there is a clear continuation in the characterisation, the magical stealing of children in their dreams and the fantastic landscape. But it has darker tones, appealing to an older readership and a greater use of dialogue and comment to create effects rather than the magical descriptions of the second book. The sequence offers an intriguing view of story and characters 'growing up' and growing out of and into styles of fantasy.