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The Ellis Island Trilogy, novels set in the USA

2nd January 2016

The Ellis Island Trilogy by Kate Kerrigan – novels set in the USA

“The sky was blue-grey, with pencils of peach light framing the tall buildings”

0330507524.01.ZTZZZZZZEllis Island and City of Hope are the first two books in the Ellis Island trilogy by Kate Kerrigan that wonderfully set the scene for Irish emigration to New York. Full of informed observations, with a fluid writing style, the reader watches and waits as Ellie grows into womanhood and finally takes herself across the Atlantic.

033051699X.01.ZTZZZZZZDesolate, rural Ireland. Rain. Hunger. Hardship. Sadness. War.” Enmeshed in her impoverished roots in County Mayo, Ireland, Ellie marries John at a very young age, for love, and to escape her controlling parents. John sustains a serious injury whilst fighting the British, and this, coupled with the grinding poverty that overtakes them, compels her to follow her friend Sheila across the water, to America, to earn money to pay for John’s operation – both she and John are hopeful that this will enable him to walk again.

A terrific confection of information and observation, both books are a mine of period detail: we learn, for example, that liners (at one time called the famine coffin ships) crossing the Atlantic sometimes had swimming pools on board (and our own research shows that the first transatlantic ship to have one on board was as early as1907); enjoy first-hand a room at the The Plaza Hotel (the byword for luxury for more than a century), and take tea at the hotel’s Palm Court; stroll in post Wall Street Crash (Black Thursday) Central Park and let your heart go out to the homeless masses. And continue to imbibe the feel of the burgeoning  and restless city on Ellie’s second visit through evocative descriptions which still hold true today… “The mystifying nature  of New York building numbers had not changed. The street … was, indeed only just around the corner from plush Fifth Avenue, but it was lined with down-at-heel brownstones, each with their crossing fire escapes and multiple ground-floor, first-floor and basement entrances as confusing as the next

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan, novel set in USA.

1447210816.01.ZTZZZZZZBook 3 in the Ellis Island Trilogy is an interesting and enjoyable read. Artist Ellie’s life centres on her two adopted sons, with the book starting in 1940. When the elder Leo runs away to Hollywood, Ellie leaves the peace and tranquillity of Fire Island to follow him.

The descriptions of the long train ride from Chicago to Los Angles are fascinating, capturing a time before regular flights between large cities was the norm. It gives the reader an idea of the vast distances when travelling from east to west in America.

Ellie has little option but to support her son as he tries to make it in the movies. She restarts her life with both sons in Los Angeles. Descriptions of how the film studios worked are interesting and informative.

Several sub plots concentrate on issues that have direct influence on Ellie and her sons. The arrival of Bridie and her sugar, (you’ll need to read the book to know what that is about!) brings back memories of her past in Ireland. A friendship with Suri leads Ellie into discovering for herself the implications of being Japanese American during WW2, when many were imprisoned due to their ethnicity.

A very good read.

KAGA for the TripFiction Team

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