Anna’s Dream is the only children’s novel written by Vonnie Banville Evans, sister of writer John Banville, and is an historical novel, spilt between the fictional experiences of girls in Wexford in 1949 and 1649. The book also contains elements of the time-slip narrative. Narrative action moves from Anna’s experiences in 1949 to Nanette’s experiences of October 1649. The book introduces quite complex ideas throughout, many of them concerning ideas of historiography. The presentation of history through the perspectives of generations of women is foregrounded throughout, as is the intermingling of folklore, oral history, and ‘authoritative’ historical sources. In addition to this, the changes in Irish society in the mid-20th century are explored throughout. Anna has a recurrent dream, and she discovers from a schoolbook that the setting of this dream is ‘Wexford Town at the time of the Cromwellian Invasion’ (16), which links her to Nanette. Anna decides to research this period further, and the way she conducts this research is significant. She consults various sources, respecting her grandmother’s knowledge of folklore surrounding the incident, listening to her Uncle’s detailed history, interviewing the local priest about the monk’s involvement in saving local people from massacre, and finally conducting research in the library, which was under heavy censorship of state and church. Anna’s narration ends and Nanette’s begins when Anna appears to be thrown off Trespan Rock, where Cromwell was said to have thrown people to their death. Nanette and Anna are linked in various ways, and their respective experiences of girlhood and the movement into adolescence are highlighted in particular. Nanette and her family eventually escape to France, with important documents from the Friary which lead to the Friary’s treasure. In the final ten-page section of the book, Anna awakes in hospital having fallen off Trespan Rock, but with a new awareness of where the lost treasure of the Friary might be. She leads Father Seán to the place where she thinks the secret tunnel is, and here, her fifteen-year old brother Danny, finds a box containing relics ‘from the altars of the church that stood here when Oliver Cromwell besieged and sacked the town of Wexford’ (141). Like other historical time-slip narratives of this kind, the book ends in a museum, where Anna is being honoured for her efforts in recovering the items of historical value. In narratives such as these, history, and specifically religious history, is embodied in these items of value.
Vonnie Banville Evans
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Gender, Ireland, Genre, Folklore, Modernity, Historical Fiction, Time-Slip Narrative, Girlhood, Religious Relic, Museum
Juvenile Literature Collection - CICE