#BookReview by Lou of Crow Glen – A Spiritual Universe of An Irish Village – Exquisite and Insightful – 4 stars. #NonFiction

Crow Glen
By Marella Hoffman
Rated: 4 stars ****

 

Exquisite, insightful and erudite into a part of Ireland

Exquisitely written and erudite, Marella Hoffman, originally in Ireland herself, begins looking into Ireland, specifically Gleann an Phreachain or Glen of the Crow and the surrounds of North Cork in ways that are insightful as she takes you on a journey of discovery into people’s present and history, culture where there is heartbreak, joy and more…

Please follow down to discover more in the blurb and review and about the author. There is also a link to her website showing you more about her venture in France as well.
I thank Marella Hoffman for getting in contact to provide a quote for the book and for a review. Please note, my review is non-biased.

CrowGlen, cover

Blurb

An odyssey through big time in a small place, this book unfolds 1,000 years of history in Crow Glen, the village of Glenville, County Cork. Returning to her native place, an emigrant ethnographer uses original oral history recordings, archival documents and collective memoir to reveal the layers of Irish history in this microcosm. The Fianna, pre-Christian nature worship, the Bards, the Famine, the War of Independence, locals’ Catholic practices on the body, in the home and in the landscape – all are resuscitated out of the land, the archives and folk memory. There are circles of emigration and return. Irish Americans come back to the village 170 years after their ancestors’ coffin-ship exodus. Their memories engage a rich dialogue with those of the villagers today. Secrets emerge, revealing historical facts of national importance. We discover that Crow Glen was a major HQ for the Irish armed effort in the War of Independence, hosting visionaries from Thomas Davis to Ernie O’ Malley, Liam Lynch to Tomás Mac Curtain. Crow, the village’s ancient icon, has a bird’s eye view over the centuries and the lives below. He shows us Fagan, the hedge-school teacher; Sweeney, the gamekeeper on the colonial estate; Ó Duinnshléibhe, the Gaelic manuscript calligrapher; and some of the country’s greatest Irish-language Bards who worked in Crow Glen, the Nagle Mountains and the Blackwater Valley from the fourteenth century onwards.Nineteenth-century locals continued Crow Glen’s Bardic tradition with witty songs and biting satires that celebrate the landscape, regulate feuds and remember emigrants. In this book, the land speaks too. Lyrenamon, Mullanabowree, Toorgariffe – exotic placenames stud the area’s black soil like jewels. Townlands speak their original Irish-language meanings, yielding messages about how our ancestors lived there. Wherever we are, the strengths and resources of previous generations in Crow Glen can help us face the challenges that lie ahead of us all today.

Buy Link: Amazon Buy Link With Free Delivery

Review

This is a curious and highly intriguing and interesting book about Crow Glen, a mysterious place near Cork in Ireland. There is even a map of places where people can go on walk and an Irish folk song included, which adds to the richness of this book, which mostly circles around Marella Hoffman, Norma O’ Donaghue, Nell and the Carney’s and also has like a tour round a manor house.

Firstly Marella tells you a little about herself and the research methods she used and her discoveries of historical treasures, including a letter sent to the Prime Minister at the time. The areas of Ireland she researched seem shroud in mystery and spirituality and differing experiences of the place from person to person, as explained at the start of the book. It’s very interesting and very accessible, as is the entire book for any reader interested in Ireland and indeed is from Ireland.

The origins and evolving language is explained in chapter one as is how to get to Glen of The Crow to join in its fairytale state of living, where it seems to be a very unique place where things, including time, don’t totally work in the conventional way. With this book, you’d be sure to find it by the directions given and the rich, scenic descriptions, which seem almost dream-like, as does the ritual of returners and how they are welcomed back into the fold.

The descriptions of the trees within the area is cleverly done, in an almost tactile manner, as though you could reach out and touch them, but the descriptions go even further than that as by now, its all caught up finely and yet deliberately in the mystique and quirks of the place.

There’s an intensity of religion that is conveyed to be rather different from other places. It’s written with, whether you’re a religious or spiritual person or not, in a respectful manner, whilst also with authenticity, with parts of how Marella herself remembers it, but also through talking to Norma. It goes on, into interesting detail about how it is being a Catholic there and how it can become a huge part of life and also how it has changed from historical to present times as it seemed to consume a huge amount of time, compared to nowadays. There is great insight into this way of life and also into people’s homes and also how they sit within the religion and spirituality and explores differing viewpoints. It’s all rather interesting and perhaps not all as your may expect.

The book moves on like a family is leaving Crow Glen in “other worldly” fashion, in the way it is described, which introduces Johanna Carney who is moving away with her large family in 1847. Her homestead still exists, but back then there was hardship and also Cromwell’s army invading.

There are events within this, such as smuggling and of the usual type people would think of. Every so often there are nuggets of the very unexpected that heightens interest more in this place that seems full of curiosities.

There’s a wonderful sense of history that converges with the present, but also what comes across is there are differences too that emerges as time moves on and changes made.

Marella then gets the opportunity to speak with people related to Johanna, where an insightful interview between Chris and Mary takes place, that pulls the reader into learning more about their ancestry from Ireland to America and there is a real sense of the importance of treasuring family history to pass onto future generations to enhance their knowledge.

There is some rich mythology that has spawned from what is a place that seems somewhat hidden, or was and it has taken time for young people to realise there is a whole world, from much of the outside world  like The Children of Lir being turned into swans. It turns into an even more extraordinary book.

It isn’t all spiritual and religion, nor fairytale like, there is a political element to this book further along as well about the 1920’s  and the IRA and spies and an intriguing man who was Lieutenant Seymore Lewington Vincent. This is written in a way that brings another dimension to Glen Crow and Cork and a further understanding of what was going on in the political world. There is also a part which refreshingly details the women’s contribution to the revolution.  This is absolutely not a dry section of the book by any means, but one that gives some history, espionage and action, where there are some twists and turns involving Nell.

 It concludes with a considered and thought-provoking Afterword, followed by a glossary and bibliography.

About the Author

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Marella Hoffman (née Buckley) was raised in Glenville, the Irish village featured in this, her ninth book.
After writing a PhD thesis on literature, she first lectured at University College Cork. She has held research awards or positions at universities in France, Switzerland, the US and at the University of Cambridge, where she was based for almost a decade. She has also worked extensively for governments, designing systems that boost democracy and social justice among excluded communities. Her tools for assisting dialogue between refugees and host communities were published recently as part of a toolkit for the United Nations.

A Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, her books have studied topics like the attitudes of the
permanently unemployed White underclass in an English town; refugees’ experiences of nationality and identity in their adopted homeland; or the ecological practices and lifestyle of an 87-year-old hermit shepherd in the French Mediterranean mountains. Her work has been published by Routledge, the Sorbonne University in Paris, other academic presses, regional publishers and as journalism.

She is married to the author and medical scientist Dr Richard Hoffman. They produce much of their work from their writers’ retreat near the Bordeaux vineyards in southern France, where they are rewilding several acres as an ecological nature reserve. They also accommodate visiting writers and families on holiday. For information, a virtual visit or to holiday at the Bordeaux centre, visit http://www.marellahoffman.com

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