Saturday, March 27, 2010

Greener Grass by Caroline Pignat

Having tried to find 'good reads' in the Historical Fiction category during the many years I taught school, I was often disappointed in the books available. Many had the characters speak as we do today, with perhaps a few dated words worked in to make it sound old-fashioned. The characters themselves invariably participated in history with no more than a teenager's angst about their latest crush or heartache. The historial events they lived through seemed wallpapered over the story and not very believeable.

Imagine my pleasure then at reading another Red Maple nominee book, Greener Grass by Caroline Pignat. I was pulled into the story at every page. The main character, Kit Byrnes, grows emotionally and in maturity as her family suffers terribly during "The Great Hunger" of 1845-1850 in Ireland, when potato blight rotted the crops in the ground and the people gradually had to sell all they had, just to survive. The remnants of the fictional Byrne family become immigrants to Canada. Kit maintains an authentic 'voice' throughout the story and the situations, no matter how extreme, always seem believeable. What better way for a teacher to introduce the ugly realities of our past than with a book such as this? North American immigration, basic concepts of human rights, worker's unions, landlord and tenant laws, and major changes in democratic government are more easily understood after a student reads Greener Grass. Written in first person in an authentic Irish brogue, Pignat immerses the reader into a reality of hardship which is achingly vivid.
Best of success, Caroline Pignat. Again I am humbled to be in such good company!

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