Book Review: 'Girl on the Leeside' by Kathleen Anne Kenney

Because I once lived in a small town in Connemara, at the gateway of the Irish-speaking area called the Gaeltacht, I look for those novels that depict the region as it is, for once one has spent significant time there, its ways and means register in the soul with perpetual resonance, leaving one forever nostalgic for what can only be described as the west of Ireland’s consciousness. It isn’t easy to capture, for all its subtle nuances, yet author Kathleen Anne Kenney has done just that in writing Girl on the Leeside in the manner the region deserves, which is to say this beautiful story is gifted to the reader with a sensitive, light touch.

Girl on the Leeside is deep in character study. Most of what happens concerns the human predicament, no matter where it is set. More than a coming of age story centered on twenty seven year old Siobhan Doyle, it is a story of the path to emotional maturity, out of a circumstantial comfort zone, (which, in this case, is perfectly plausible, due to its isolated and insular Irish setting) into all that it takes to overcome one’s self-imposed limitations to brave the risk of furthering one’s life.

In utter fearlessness, Kathleen Anne Kenney invites the reader to suspend disbelief in giving us an otherworldly character that speaks to the inner fairy in those who dare to dream. Small and ethereal Siobhan is orphaned at the age of two by her unconventional mother, and father of unknown origin. She is taken in and raised by her mother’s brother, Keenan Doyle, the publican of his family’s generational, rural establishment called the Leeside, near the shores of a lough tucked away in remote Connemara. Introverted, with little outside influence, she is keenly possessed by her culture’s ancient poetry and folklore. She is a natural born artist, gifted with an intuitive grasp on words and story, a passion shared by her Uncle Keenan, yet so pronounced in her that she walks the line between fantasy and reality. It isn’t easy to redirect one’s invested frame of reference in the world, if it isn’t completely necessary, yet necessity arrives at the Leeside, when American professor of ancient Irish poetry and folklore, Tim Ferris, comes to compare literary notes with Siobhan and Keenan. It is this catalyst that sets the wheels in motion of a heartfelt, insightful story that involves the willingness to grow. All throughout, author Kathleen Anne Kenney explores the myriad fears that get in the way, and shows us the way to triumph.

Girl on the Leeside is a deceptively soft read. It is so laden with beautiful imagery, so seamlessly woven with radiant poetry that it lulls you into its poignancy and holds you captive, all the way to its satisfying end.

Claire Fullerton is the author of "Dancing to an Irish Reel" and "A Portal in Time." 

Views: 426

Tags: Book, Literature, Reviews

Comment by Honora Wright Weaver on July 11, 2017 at 4:15pm
Your review sent me to the Barnes & Noble site to read an excerpt. The beautiful writing pulled me in and I purchased it on my Nook. No sleep for me tonight.
Comment by Claire Fullerton on July 11, 2017 at 4:23pm

Honora, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on this book! Let me know what you think! I can't recall now where I read about this book's release, but the second I realized that Pat Conroy's literary agent, Marly Russoff, represented this author, and that Nan Talese was the book's editor ( Nan Talese was also Conroy's editor for 5 of his books) and that it was set it Ireland, I pre-ordered!  I am so glad I did. I absolutely loved it! 

Comment by Honora Wright Weaver on July 14, 2017 at 5:42pm

Claire, I loved this story.  I also really appreciate the written word like Siobhan does and I felt a bit of a connection with her.  I wish the author would have included Siobhan's poems, but I guess poetry is not easily written.

I would definitely read more from this author.  

Comment by Claire Fullerton on July 14, 2017 at 8:44pm

I feel the exact same! It is a beautiful book on so many levels. One thing that struck me, in reading some of its reviews on Goodreads: some wrote they found Siobhan unrealistically naïve for being age 27. But I found her plight plausible for a rural part of Ireland. One has to keep things in context, and I thing the author did a wonderful job! Thanks for sending your thoughts, Honora! I also recommend Lisa Carey's latest book, The Stolen Child! 

Comment by Honora Wright Weaver on July 15, 2017 at 10:09am

I think with Siobhan's uncle being so overprotective of her it was expected that she'd be naive.  She was curious about the world around her, though and I'd be curious to know about her journey to experience it.

Comment by Claire Fullerton on July 15, 2017 at 10:19am

Honora, there really could be a sequel to this book, yet I doubt there will be. Most who write literary fiction do so in stand alone books! That this story ended with future possibilities is one of its attractions. I found the ending very satisfying. 

Comment by Honora Wright Weaver on July 15, 2017 at 12:12pm

I found the ending satisfying, too.  I added "The Stolen Child" to my to-read list.  

Comment by Claire Fullerton on July 15, 2017 at 1:05pm

Let's discuss!


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