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Fields of Home by Marita Conlon-McKenna

This book is about three characters, Eily, Michael and Peggy, who have survived the famine. Eily is living on a little farm with her husband John and two children, Mary-Brigid and Jodie. Her great-aunt, Nano, also lives with her. Peggy has moved away to Boston where she is working as a maid for the Rowans. Michael is training to be a horseman in the big house.

At the beginning of the story, Michael is woken up in the middle of the night. A mare, 'Ragusa', was having a foal and she was having trouble. She died and Michael managed to save her foal which was named 'Morning Boy'. He gets another mare, 'Glengary', to foster the young foal.

Eily goes to visit a very good friend of hers and she finds out that there is a new landlord named Dennis Ormonde. She is told that he is going to put up the rent. Miss Roxanne in Ruston is getting married and Peggy is very tired getting ready for the huge wedding. She then finds out that her friend Kitty who works with her is going to work for Miss Roxanne in her new house. She will be left alone.

Back in Castletaggart, where Eily lives, the landlord has already began evicting tenants and he evicts an elderly woman. Eily and John are worried about their own little cottage, but John says he will never give it up. Michael went to the races and came second. Another jockey, Peader Mahoney, who was riding 'Jerpoint' came first in another race. He over-rid his horse and was told by his boss that he wasn't allowed to ride the horses anymore. He then ran away.

Peggy got a day off and went to visit her friend Sarah and she told Peggy that she was moving out west. Sarah's brother, James, brought Peggy home. He asked her to marry him but she said no because he made it sound like he just wanted to marry her so Sarah could be with her.

A fire broke out at the big house. The whole place was destroyed. Lord Henry decided that he would move back to London. He gave Michael Glengarry and Morning Boy. Michael decided that he would go and visit Eily for a while.

John was brought home from a meeting. He had been in a fight involving William Hussey and he was badly bruised. Eily and John were worried because they thought they might be evicted. They were then told that their rent had been doubled. Mary-Brigid thought of an idea - they could bake cakes and jams and sell them at the market to earn some money.

When Michael arrived in Castletaggart it gave them new hope. They were all so happy to see him. They hadn't yet made enough for the rent. Back in Boston James came to visit Peggy before he left and told her how much he loved her. Peggy then decided that she wanted to marry him and move west.

In Castletaggart the Rent Collector came back and John gave all the money they had to him but they were still short. William Hussey arrived and told them they had to leave the house. Michael had gone off and they hadn't seen him for a while. Hussey tried to smoke them out and break the door down. Then Michael arrived and told them that Eily and John now owned their  cottage. He had sold Glengarry to the landlord for the cottage. Finally, the land belonged to them after so long.

Character Sketch
I have decided to do my character sketch on Michael. Michael is training to be a horseman. He had a great job at the big house in Castletaggart. He loves getting up in the morning and going out to ride the horses. He loves learning new things from his trainer, Toss. He knows how to treat the horses and he has a great love for them.

At the beginning of the story, Michael gets up in the middle of the night to try and save a mare who was in trouble giving birth to her foal. He loses the mare, but so that he won't lose the foal as well, is courageous and gets another mare to foster the foal. He loves his job and he loves working with horses.

When there was a fire at the big house, Michael was the one who returned into the burning house to save some girls. He was also the one who saved the horses. This shows that he is very courageous and he would do anything to help people. He gets annoyed when people mistreat horses and don't take care of them properly.

When he is told that he no longer has a job, he is heartbroken. He also has to deal with the love of his family. He goes back to stay with Eily. His relationship with Eily is full of love. He is saddened when he realises that she doesn't have enough money. He tries to help and he sells his horse so that she can have some place to call home. This shows how great the love for his family is. He would sacrifice anything as long as they were happy.

He remembers the days when he and his two sisters had to walk the roads in search of their aunts. They had nowhere to call home. He realises how important it is to have a home and he did everything he could to make it happen. He is also very good with children. He gives them little responsibilities to make them feel special and grown-up. He knows that nothing else matters when you have your family near you to love you. What makes him happy is when he does something to bring joy into someone else's life.

The Theme of the Story
The theme of the story is love. In the first chapter Eily shows her love for her family. When her husband comes home and has been fighting, she was really worried about him. She wants to protect her family from any harm. She worries when she might lose her home for the second time in her life. She doesn't want to be walking the roads again begging for food and somewhere to sleep. She wants to protect her family from the hardship that she suffered when she was young. She wants to build a future for her children. This shows the great love she has for her family.

At the beginning of the story, Michael loves his horses and his job. He shows this by the way he cares for them. Everything he does he does for the good of the horses. He saved a foal because he couldn't bear to see it die. When he is riding them he doesn't treat them badly and he knows that they can feel everything just like humans. Towards the end of the story he shows the love for his family as he gives up his only horse so that he can bring joy into his sister's life.

Peggy, who is in Boston, doesn't forget about her life in Ireland. She remembers the hardship she faced and she remembers the love she has for her family. When her friend Kitty tells her she's leaving, she feels lonely and upset. This shows her love for Kitty. She loves the people she works with. Her other friend Sarah is sick and has to move out west. Peggy pretends to be happy for her, so that she won't think that she has to stay with her. She loves James but she was willing to let him go with Sarah because she thought that he didn't really love her. Eventually, when James expresses his love for her, she marries him and moves out west. Also she tells her employers to give her pay cheque to Eily instead of keeping it herself. This proves that she loves her and she is always thinking about her.

Did I like or dislike this book?
I liked this book. I think that Marita Conlon-McKenna is an excellent writer. Fields of Home was the last book in the famine series. The other two books were Under the Hawthorn Tree and Wildflower Girl. These books portray the hardship and suffering caused by the famine. This book shows how these people can make a life for themselves after the famine. They will always remember the hardship they have endured.

The three main characters in the story, Eily, Michael and Peggy, have managed to make a life for themselves. Life for them still isn't so easy. There are decisions to make and Eily still has to worry about landlords and the possibility of being evicted. The story is exciting and fun. It is very easy to read and the language is simple and easy to understand.

At the beginning of the book, Ireland is still in turmoil with evictions, burnings, secret meetings and fights over land. Eily longs for some place she can call her own. She has to pay rent and she is still short of money. Michael has got a great job training horses but a tragedy leaves him homeless and jobless. Peggy has to make decisions which will change her life.

The story is full of adventure and excitement. The tragedy which they have faced really touches people's emotions. At the end of the novel, Michael sells his horse so that his sister and family could have somewhere they could call their own. This shows the love they had for each other.

I also liked the title of this book, Fields of Home. This conveys the fact that at the end, Eily, Michael and Peggy finally got what they wanted - a place to call home. The book was easy and exciting to read and I really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Reviewed by-
Marian Moroney,
Second Year,
Scoil Mhuire,

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