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The Grey Goose of Kilnevin

Author: Patricia Lynch
Series: Puffin Story Books
Published: Harmondsworth
Physical Description: 192p.
Notes: This is the first work of fiction by Patricia Lynch, a highly influential figure in twentieth-century Irish children’s literature, to be included in the Puffin Story Book series, at number 51 (PS 51). The inclusion of Lynch’s work is indicative of the continued importance and celebration of Lynch’s work in Ireland and abroad. The books tells the story of a journey which begins as a simple errand for Sheila, a young girl without a home or worthy parental figure. The journey soon becomes magical, with many fantastical overtones throughout. Ultimately, the journey undertaken is a poignant one, as Sheila and her companions – the grey goose named Betsy, an old man referred to as the Ballad Singer, a young boy Fergus, and later, the apple woman – are, in various ways, defined by their ‘homelessness’. Irish myth and legend plays a significant role in the text as one of the central structuring narrative threads in the book is the legend the Children of Lir, referenced in ‘the four swans’ who appear throughout. The four swans are part of the glass window of the eating house where Sheila works and appear to symbolise her feeling of homelessness, and there are continual references throughout their journey to finding the ‘Isle of the Four Swans’. The group start out to find the Isle of the Four Swans on a number of occasions but are distracted or lose their way; in one instance they innocently take a train without proper tickets (110), on a journey that is symbolic of a modernity that crosscuts a traditional landscape. In another instance, the foursome are reluctant to follow the fox to the Isle when they must forgo the temporary home they have established in a cabin in the woods (150-4). Some critics have read the references to the Children of Lir that run throughout the text as a comfort ‘to aid children cut adrift from family and home’ (Lane, 178). However, these references can also be read as an acknowledgement of homelessness and the ‘unhomely’ that pervades the lives of both children and adults, particularly those on the margins of society in various ways. In the end, the four are taken back to Kilnevin by the wild geese, and the book ends with the recreation of a new home and new family on the site of the House of the Four Swans in Kilnevin, now rebuilt and renamed ‘The House of the Grey Goose’.
[Ciara Gallagher].
Lane, Leeann. “ ‘In My Mind I Build A House’: The Quest for Family in the Children’s Fiction of Patricia Lynch.” Éire-Ireland 44. 1 (2009): 169-193.
Subject: Ireland, Gender, Myth and Legend, Folklore, Fairs, Animals, Children of Lir, Journey, Home, ‘Homelessness’, Unhomely.
Language: English
Original price: two shillings and sixpence
Library: Church of Ireland College of Education
Collection: Bartlett Puffin Collection - CICE