It is the autumn of 1846 in Ireland. Lorraine and her brother are waiting for the time to pick the potato crop on their family farm leased from an English landowner. But this year is different—the spuds are mushy and ruined. What will Lorraine and her family do?
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Book: Hunger: A tale of courage
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Publication Date: Feburary 13, 2018
Publisher: Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Page Count: 272
Genre: Childrens, Historical Fiction
Cover Artist: —
My Rating: ★★
I received this copy from the publisher via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review
In August 1845, Phytophthora infestans–a fungus-like organism–attacked the potato crop in Ireland.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this read, other than the fact that it wouldn’t be an easy one to ingest. I really enjoyed getting into a different genre in childrens/YA, and hoped for the best, but simply wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped. While the topic is solid, the characters and plot suffered from an inability to make much progression.
Things I liked:
#1 I appreciated the hardship the author portrayed throughout this story. Lorraine, the main character, is a twelve-year-old Irish girl. Her family work as farmers–tenants on a wealthy English family’s land. She paints a horrific picture of the famine the potato (better known as “spuds”) plight brought to Ireland. Napoli doesn’t spare the reader from the ugly truth. While the book remains clean, it doesn’t keep out the fact that these people suffered greatly during this time, and many (if not all) lives were changed because of it.
#2 Ireland is known for its tumultuous weather and beautiful landscapes. Both of these played a big role in the story and helped the reader to understand how everything must remain in balance in order for life to thrive. It also makes the reading flow as we get to travel through the green hills with the characters.
#3 The author does a great job at incorporating several poignant factors throughout this period. Politics, Religion, and Class division play big roles here, in several ways. These issues come out immediately in Lorraine and Susanna’s interactions.
Things I didn’t like:
#1 There was a lack of direction throughout this plot. It was the main factor that killed this book for me. While the characters definitely underwent turmoil, it never seemed to go anywhere. Without character or plot progression, it’s difficult as the reader to really follow the point of the story. Definitely, this is a tragic tale. Yet, I couldn’t grasp what actually was trying to be portrayed here? Perhaps I’m reading too far into it. I feel as if it could have been written as a non-fiction story instead, and have been more effective as it’s more factual than anything.
#2 I had a very difficult time making a connection to the characters. I didn’t really like any of them, and I’m not sure why. Food is the main topic here and takes center stage in every conversation, and I think that’s why it’s difficult to make this connection.
This is not a bad read by any means. I just had a lot of difficulty with feeling that the plot was driven towards a purpose other than obtaining food.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: There are scenes where the children come across dead bodies, and another where people are shooting at one another.