|Daniel and Brigit O'Connor in old age|
I have read two of Vidal's other novels and I enjoyed them. I think that The Paradise Tree is my favorite, though. I loved the family history aspect to the novel. I love researching my family history and am always intrigued when I get to read about others' family histories as well.
The Paradise Tree is available internationally from Amazon.Vidal does a wonderful job of bringing the folklore, mythology, legend and history of Ireland into the story - Daniel O'Connor is patriarch of the family and continues to tell his children and grandchildren the story of the O'Connor family and their origins in Ireland. The stories his mother told him are passed down the generations and it continues to be part of the family story even after they have become established in Canada. Daniel's own tale of persecution and suffering due to the penal laws was heartbreaking and informative. This time period is a continuing interest of mine.
I really enjoyed getting to know the family members and the stories did feel like a family history - even though it has, of course, been fictionalized. I liked that Daniel worked so hard and patiently to establish his farm and to prepare for finding a wife so he could start a family. The times were very different from now, and the focus was less on love and more on suitability and stability. Even though some really terrible things happen to the family over the years, I got the sense of a security the family members felt within their family and in their faith.
I liked the frank manner that Vidal deals with the hardships and tragedies that happen. The pain is not trivialized, but is presented as part of a hard, but satisfying and worthy life spent striving to be the best they can be and fulfilling their responsibilities. There were also plenty of happy events, family celebrations, holidays, and always central to their lives was the strong faith they were all raised in. The descriptions of their strong, simple faith were heartwarming and fit in with the lives they led.
The Paradise Tree is one of those books that made me feel happy and secure while reading even though some really terrible things happened to the family. I always had the sense that they would persevere and thrive. The Paradise Tree is a sweeping family saga that I will be suggesting to my friends and family. It was such an enjoyable book. (Read more.)