Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*County Limerick

*County Limerick. County in southwest Ireland, four farms of which are central to O’Faoláin’s family saga, which centers on the age-old struggle to control land. O’Faoláin demonstrates how land, or a lack of land, really, can cause deep family strife because it remains central to Irish survival. The underlying historical cause of contention, which turns family members into enemies, results from Great Britain’s historical colonization of Ireland. As the cultivation of large estates by British landowners left fewer acres for Ireland’s own people to cultivate, and as the Irish population increased, families were pushed to the breaking point to survive.


Bawnrea. Farm into which the novel’s central character, Leo Foxe-Donnel, is born. When his mother, Judith Foxe, marries his father, Long John O’Donnell, she marries down socially from the local estate house, Foxehall. While Long John welcomes his new bride, he welcomes her land, Ahill Farm, even more and mortgages it immediately so he can buy a third farm, New Plot. Ignoring his older brother’s birthright, his mother makes sure that her youngest son, Leo, will inherit the best land. Leo, however, squanders his chances at education, preferring to drink, chase women, and father illegitimate children. Because Leo is privileged, he makes enemies of his brothers, who must spend their life on poorer land, barely scraping out subsistence...

(The entire section is 571 words.)