Author: Pamela Clare ISBN:0843952067 3/2004 HISTORICAL Publisher: DORCHESTER
RRAH's THOUGHTS AND PONDERINGS:
Have you ever picked up a book and, before you were finished the first chapter, just knew it was going to be a fantastic book? I felt exactly like that when I read Pamela Clare's CARNAL GIFT and I was right. It was fantastic.
It's 1754 in Ireland, when the country is living under the oppressive rule of the English. Brighid is a bright, proud, and beautiful young woman. She is also Irish, poor, and Catholic. Along with her brothers, she tries to live as she did before the English came, before her father was taken away, trying to go on without attracting the attention of the English earl whose thumb they are under.
Jamie is a handsome young man, a wealthy landowner, from the Virginia Colony. He is in Ireland visiting his old friend, the English earl, whom he has not seen in years.
Jamie and Brighid are thrown together by circumstances of another's making. Before they know it, the circumstance becomes a prolonged situation and they discover their feelings for each other. While Brighid does not trust this English colonist at first, she finds herself in love. Hopelessly, since there is no hope for a future. She is Irish; Jamie English. She is poor and he is wealthy. And, the most impossible obstacle - Brighid is Catholic and Jamie is Protestant. Being Catholic and practicing her faith is illegal, but a Protestant and a Catholic together is treason. As they say, however, love conquers all, and this book shows just how true that is.
While this is a beautiful love story, it is much more. It is the story of a people who are struggling to hold onto their identity, their heritage and faith, and even their language.
Pamela Clare shows us all of this with magnificent subtlety. She doesn't bombard us with history lessons and facts, but brings the reality of the times with small reminders. The Irish were not allowed to be educated. Those caught teaching were never seen again. Priests could be killed on the spot for celebrating mass. Having a weapon to defend yourself is treason, punishable by death.The anglicization of the Gaelic names, Alais to Alice, for example - even that small thing reminds us.
Gaelic phrases and dialogue are sprinkled throughout the story. Not so much that the reader feels overwhelmed, but enough to appreciate the beauty of a language that has been all but lost to us.
Since it often takes an author several books to find her rhythm, I was surprised to discover this was only Pamela Clare's second novel. It's been a long time since I've gotten so totally lost in a book, but this one swept me away to another time and place. I'm anxious to see what tale this new author will spin next.