15 February 2012

Book Review: Wild Irish Girl

Title: The Wild Irish Girl
Author: Sydney Owenson
Publisher/Year: Oxford World's Classic / 1806
Source/Format: TBR Shelves / Print
Date Finished: 8 February 2012
Book # 6

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
Horatio has been a bad boy, and as his punishment, he is sent to his father's estate in Ireland. While there, he infiltrates the residence of the local Irish royalty his family displaced. He quickly becomes enamored of the family and their

A Bit of a Ramble
This story's subtitle is "A National Tale" and I think that subtitle is more relevant than the title itself. Much of this book is focused on A Look at the Legend of Ireland: History, Culture, and Politics. The "wild Irish girl" in question, Glorvina, is certainly a focal point as she is the vehicle through which much of the Irish culture is filtered for our English protagonist, Horatio. While the romance between Horatio and Glorvina remains at the forefront of Horatio's letters, it is the reversal of Horatio's biased opinions of the Irish and the breakdown of Irish stereotypes that really takes center stage (and comprises the  majority of the text).

I think if I was in the right mood while reading this, I could have learned a crapton about Ireland, especially if I had done further research on some of the information. I really am interested to know if the history presented is in fact true. Unfortunately, I do not currently have the time to delve into a project of this sort, so I took the lessons learned at face value and maintained my focus on the story rather than the national history.

And the "story" - the romance - is certainly worthy of attention. Horatio and Glorvina have a slow, understated courtship which is sweet in its subtlety (a type of romance not popular in contemporary lit). Their love is practically unsaid, a connection of minds and personality. To add a twist to the tale, the reader receives the plot through letters Horatio is writing to one of his friends back in England. I find epistolary novels interesting in that they have such a unique point of view - so focused on the thoughts of the protagonist.

Something I didn't like: I would like to start by saying that I adore footnotes. I like annotated copies of works. I actually enjoy reading books about books. And yet, I was annoyed with the footnotes in this book, and pretty much skimmed them (okay, I may even have just completely skipped a few). I couldn't fully explain why these footnotes are so different from those I adore. I guess, in part, I didn't understand why some of the footnotes were footnotes. So much of the text is taken up with discussing Irish history and culture that the separate footnotes for certain historical/cultural tidbits confused me. And I wasn't too impressed with the tone of the footnotes; they weren't that interestingly written (and many footnotes I have really enjoyed are brimming with personality). I guess I need a unique separation and a real voice for my footnotes.

You may be wondering with so much I liked and so little I didn't why I gave this book an Accept rating. The answer isn't easy to articulate. An Accept means if someone offers it to you, you might as well give it a go.
To get an Accept rating, a book must entertain me and/or make me think, but probably didn't make me do both. Accept(able) books are good reads that I enjoy and promptly forget. Quite a few guilty pleasures fall into this category as well as intellectual books that weren't entertaining.

The Wild Irish Girl was a wee bit entertaining and a wee bit informative but didn't wow me on either count. Hence, Accept. I will say, though, that I really mean it when I say if you get the chance, you should read it.

This book counts towards Reading Goal #1: Reading Off My Own Shelves and specifically my Classics Reading Project.


  1. I think I'd skip this one. I don't do too well with historical stuff, and while I know it's basically heresy, I don't really care about Ireland (today or yesterday) at all. I know, bad me. I avoid reading books about Ireland. I just have a sort of thing against it, I'm not even sure why. ? But anyway, it seems like the sort of book I should avoid.

  2. I haven't read a lot about Irish history, and given my origins, I find that a little shameful! I bet I would get a lot out of this book for that aspect alone, and might have to make some time for this one. I enjoyed your take on it and love that you defined your parameters for an "acceptable read". Very nice review today!

  3. I haven't heard much about this one in my bloggy travels. It's probably one I'd pick up at a book sale, but not for more than .25.

  4. It seems like maybe this book might hold up better in the right mood? I will tell you that often I am NOT in the mood to work very hard at entertaining myself. I loathe footnotes, unless they really throw me a bone. If they are just informative and blah, blah, I ignore them. They break up my rhythm. So who knows if I will ever pick this one up. My eyebrows did go up when I heard about a bad boy named Horatio...

  5. Hmmm, I'm actually quite interested in Irish history so maybe I should try it. Either I'd find it fascinating or be bored to death...right? ;)

  6. I was surprised because I thought you were really enjoying this one! This is the one you had posted about liking the character, right? I'm thinking I wouldn't enjoy it that much because all the history would probably be too much information for me.


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