Sam Hanna Bell: December Bride



I can t say I loved it but I can say that it has an interesting pace and some echoes of myth such as a woman choosing her partner and the communal parenting of a child It s set in Northern Ireland before partition among a Presbyterian community Couldn t get past the first few chapters The cover synopsis promises a conundrun that is resolved in the first chapter spoiling the plot Weak characterisation Bleak landscapes A fairly uninteresting story with few redeeming parts A beautifully written Ulster novel with an unsettling core of the impacts of errant behaviour The farming and the social and religious divisions are well observed As so often this novel is a piece of social history that gives us an invaluable picture of time and place and attitudes A complicated book for me personally as I feel it records aspects of my family background and is set in an area that fascinates me and where I hope to live on my return to Ireland I loved hearing the Ulster speak in the dialogue I loved the originality of the descriptive language But I found the character of Sarah puzzling The story line is ambiguous does she continue to have sexual relations with both brothers throughout the book Why doesn t one of the brothers just ask her to marry him Why oh why would a peasant Presbyterian girl with a religious mother behave like this I find her rejection of her religious culture somewhat unbelievable But of course it is probably this ambiguity and the uestioning that makes the book such an addictive tormented read How I longed throughout to hear Sarah speak about her thoughts feelings and decision making A brilliant evocation of the life and preoccupations of an Ulster Scots family and their community in Ulster a hundred ears ago Sam I really liked this nov. A classic novel of Ulster life by one of the twentieth century's greatest writers Sarah Gomartin the servant girl on Andrew Echlin's farm bears a child.

Sam Hanna Bell ☆ 5 review

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El about an agricultural Irish family I don t often go for books which span such long time spans because I find they miss out on depth of character However the story in this case concentrates on pivotal moments in the lives of the protagonists and by their speech and action we get to know them pretty well Their lives whilst being parochial are very eventful and these accidents and scandals kept me wondering what was going to happen next I would certainly read it again possibly with a dictionary to hand for when the Irish dialect words baffle me Dark and compelling landscape deep characterisation and stunning Ulster Scots dialogue A true Irish classicThe opening paragraph is the best I have ever read It begins Ravara Meeting House mouldered among its gravestones like a mother surrounded by her spinster children The story then sweeps along with physical descriptions are that as dark and rich as those of Dickens and Zola The characterisation is intricate and the reader watches the lives of the protagonists much like the visitors to the Echlin farmhouse do Bell holds just enough information back from the reader to set the imagination alight Sarah Gomartin is stoic strong and so sultry that the minister falls under her ardent spell The characters are all familiar people If Die Reisenden you re from Northern Irelandou ll feel like Undercover Pregnancy you ve met them all somewhere before I owe a great deal to the lessons of Sam Hanna Bell That rating is 3 in reality and even that feels a bit generous to meWhen Andrew Echlin s wife dies leaving behind Andrew and two grown sons the man realises how important the woman was for the smooth running of his farm on the coast of Northern Ireland Needing someone to take over the tasks his wife used to take care of Echlin invites Martha Gormar. To one of Andrew's sons But which one Her steadfast refusal over manyears to 'bend and contrive things' by choosing one of the brothers reverberates.

Tin and her 30 ear old daughter Sarah to come and live and work on his farmIt isn t long before bo This novel originally published in 1951 is seen as a classic in Northern Irish fiction but is one that I hadn t read before now It took me a few chapters to get in to but when I did I was thoroughly invested in the storyThe book set in a grim farming community close to Strangford Lough in Co Down in the early ears of the 20th century features the Echlins father Andrew and sons Hamilton and Frank who have just lost the matriarch of the family and as a result employ Martha Gomartin and her daughter Sarah to look after the household After Andrew drowns in a storm Sarah aims to cement her place in the household by engaging in relations with both brothers the result of which is a son whose father isn t declared thereby causing scandal in the community who use their religious beliefs to condemn the living arrangements of the family Under Sarah s tutelage the family prosper Hummer yet the effect that their standing in the community has on their fortunes is hugeWhen I got used to the writing style and the bleak setting of the novel I found the narrative highly engaging Sarah with her calculating manner was particularly interesting having herself turned from the church after the death of her fatheret sectarian in many of the dealings she has with neighboursAs the novel covers a lengthy period it s hard to comment on plot without spoilers but I ve no doubt that Bell captured many of the undoubtedly harsh aspects of rural Ulster life during this period and the work reminded me a little of the John McGahern novel I read at the end of last earThis novel won t be to everyone s taste but given my interest in NI social history this was one that was well worth readin. Through the puritan Ulster community alienating clergy and neighbors hastening her mother's death and casting a cold shadow on the life of her childre.