What makes this book such a treat, to me, is the richness of the world evoked, the fascinating portrayal of village life. While the book abounds with marvelous descriptions of rural Ireland - wakes, slaughtered pigs, turf-cutting, not to mention the fantastic mythic sorts of stories of star-crossed lovers and village misadventures, and descriptions of food that would make your mouth water - it's hardly provincial in the typical sense. There's a clear awareness of the rest of the world and larger political problems. The village is neither isolated nor backwards, just somewhat removed, one might say. And while the people are traditional and somewhat set in their ways, its not a repressive atmosphere. There's a nice moment, for instance, where the narrator reflects that it's somewhat curious that no one has ever said a harsh word of the town prostitute, "Even those who turned with horrified loathing from any young girl who anticipated her marriage by a few months, never shunned Sarah". Actually, the book is, on the whole, wonderful in its cast of strong-minded, independent women.
While there's not much in the way of narrative, it ends up being a highly engaging read, happily meandering into tall tales of village characters and bits of gossip, coupled with more serious reflections and astute observations about life and the relationships between people. And the descriptions of food, my goodness - Laverty is apparently most known for her cookbooks, and I have ever intention of acquiring one when I'm in Dublin this summer because I've been dreaming off all these marvelous potatoes she writes about ever since I first took up the book.
Anyhow - highly recommended. A fantastically charming book.