Monday, 4 June 2012

Dohaney, M.T. "The Corrigan Women"

Dohaney, M.T. "The Corrigan Women: - 1986

A Canadian friend recommended this book to me. A portrayal of life in Newfoundland at the beginning of the last century, well, at the beginning of the First World War. The story of a girl who works as a household helper, who is not treated well by the family she works for. The story of a family during and after a war, of a soldier who is never the same again, of a daughter, who repeats the history of her mother.

And within this turmoil, M.T. Dohaney manages to describe the beauty and ruggedness of that part of Canada, makes you believe you've been there, includes a little bit of history but, best of all, gives you an insight why people survive even the harshest conditions.

From the back cover:

"M.T. Dohaney has been described as Newfoundland’s answer to Frank McCourt. Her first novel, The Corrigan Women, a richly textured portrayal of outport life, is a contemporary classic. Long out-of-print, this first novel in the trilogy that ends with the critically acclaimed A Fit Month for Dying, is now available once again. This intense family drama opens in pre-Confederation Newfoundland, on the eve of the First World War. Fifteen-year-old Bertha Ryan leaves home to work as the hired girl in the troubled Corrigan household in a larger village, called the Cove. There, she is browbeaten by her employer and raped by the deranged son. Pregnant and terrified, Bertha marries her assailant’s brother, with whom she is in love. But the war intervenes, and when her husband returns, he is shell-shocked and nothing is the same. Bertha’s daughter Carmel fares no better. During the Second World War, she marries a charming, handsome American soldier stationed at the nearby base and later she discovers that he is already married. The weight of the accumulated shame eventually falls upon Carmel’s daughter Tessie, who reaches adulthood caught in the crossfire between the ways of the Cove and the world beyond Newfoundland. With characteristic wit and compassion, Dohaney depicts a trio of resilient women who face life with dignity, courage and irrepressible humour. When The Corrigan Women first appeared in 1988, readers kept asking M.T. Dohaney, “Well, what happened? Did Bertha keep visiting the grave?” Dohaney would reply, “I don’t know. The Corrigan Women is fiction.” “But she must have told you.” “No, Bertha is fictional, and that was 1918, long before my time.” And so it went, until the immediacy of The Corrigan Women and the characters that would not stay on the page drove Dohaney to write two more Corrigan Women novels in this highly acclaimed now popular trilogy."

I also read the second part of the story "To Scatter Stones" which I quite liked and the third "A Fit Month for Dying" which I didn't.

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