Thursday, December 23, 2010

Song of the Silent Harp by BJ Hoff

The book's synopsis from the author's website:
Song of the Silent Harp (The Emerald Ballad)Book One of BJ Hoff’s acclaimed and bestselling Emerald Ballad series begins the five-book saga of three friends raised in a tiny Irish village devastated by the Potato Famine of the mid-1800s, as they struggle to survive and hold onto their faith during Ireland’s darkest days…
Nora Kavanagh has lost her husband and young daughter, and now lives in fear of losing her home. She and her young son, Daniel, have only one hope for survival, the poet/patriot—and love of Nora’s youth–Morgan Fitzgerald. But his dangerous involvement with a band of Irish rebels keeps him in constant danger and puts the possibility of a future for him and those he loves in jeopardy.
Michael Burke, a close childhood friend of both Nora and Morgan, left his homeland for America and is now a New York City policeman. A widower with a difficult, rebellious son, he still remembers Nora with love and fondness and wants nothing more than to help her escape the cataclysmic famine and build a new life…with him.
What a story that was! I cannot truly explain how taken I was by this novel and by Ms. Hoff's writing. I hadn't heard anything about the author prior to reading Song of the Silent Harp and I'm sorry about that because she's a really good historical writer. She not only introduced me to the history of Ireland but made me want to know as much as possible about this precious country and its people. The way Morgan loves his country brought tears to my eyes. It was incredible to read about this 'lover-like' relationship they had.

I could never leave our Lady Ireland for good...Aye, she's a miserable island at that, but she's claimed me entirely, don't you see? There never was a woman quite so bent on owning a man as our Eire. She's a fierce and terrible mistress, I admit, and most likely she'll be my destruction. But beloved as she is to me, I could no more give her up than rip out my own heart.

I think such love for one's own land is both heartbreaking and beautiful and I believe that it's also not only on the pages of a fictional story that such attachment could be found. Ms. Hoffman really opened my eyes to what kind of people the Irish were, how determined to love their country to the end and how much it hurt them to leave it in the face of horrible death by starvation. The Great Potato Famine period was just horrid and really a shameful part of history for England and I had a vague picture of it in my mind. The Song of the Silent Harp made it real for me, the plight of the helpless, starving people who loved their land and loved their God and religion and who were dying for both.

Great Potato Famine Dublin Memorial

How the Catholic religion was intertwined with the history of Ireland is yet another thing I hadn't been aware of until I read Ms. Hoff's book. There is just simply too much to mention here in this one short review. The book was sad, I'm not going to lie. But the period in which the story takes place was full of tragedy and sorrow. I shed many tears and kept reading despite them because there's also hope in there and the goodness of man and the strength of human spirit in the face of adversity. All these were reasons which make this book a powerful story which should be read by anyone who wants to know if only a little more about Ireland, its people and its history.

FTC Disclosure: I received The Song of the Silent Harp from FIRST Wild Card Tour. You can read a first chapter of the book here.