Friday, February 24, 2023

Book Review: The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan

Pages: 256
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 28, 2023
Publisher: Viking
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From the multi-award-winning and internationally bestselling author Donal Ryan, a searing, jubilant story about four generations of women and fierce love. The Aylward women of Nenagh, Tipperary, are mad about each other, but you wouldn't always think it. You'd have to know them to know that--in spite of what the neighbors might say about raised voices and dramatic scenes--their house is a place of peace, filled with love, a refuge from the sadness and cruelty of the world. Their story begins at an end and ends at a beginning. It involves wives and widows, gunrunners and gougers, sinners and saints. It's a story of terrible betrayals and fierce loyalties, of isolation and togetherness, of transgression, forgiveness, desire, and love. Of all the things family can be and all the things it sometimes isn't. The Queen of Dirt Island is an uplifting celebration of fierce, loyal love and the powerful stories that bind generations together.




Saoirse Aylward was raised by her fierce mother, Eileen, and her paternal grandmother, Mary. Her father died in a car crash when she was an infant, so she never really knew him. Eileen faces many problems as the years trudge on. She isn't close with her own parents or brother, but is forced to deal with them regarding an issue with the inheritance of land. Then there's her brother-in-laws and their interest in her, not to mention their involvement with the IRA. Eileen has to provide for her daughter and makes many sacrifices as the years go on, but she always has support from Mary. As Saoirse gets older, she drinks too much at a party and then finds herself pregnant. This devastates her mother as she has given up so much for Saoirse to succeed, but in the end, they rally together. Saoirse is now a young mother and meets Josh, a writer, who moved in next door and opens her world up a bit more. Many tragedies face the Aylward family, but they have each other, along with their determination, as the years go by in County Tipperary.  Donal Ryan's The Queen of Dirt Island is a beautiful family saga that stayed with me.

I really liked Eileen from the start in The Queen of Dirt Island. She is a tough and I loved that about her. She has no choice but to be tough and she doesn't let set backs stop her. Her strained relationship with her brother is heartbreaking and their fight over land doesn't help things. Her brother is a horrible person and I could see why she would want to separate herself from him. On the other hand, her relationship with her mother in law was complicated, but endearing. Slowly Mary has become Eileen's best friend and biggest supporter, vice versa. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story. On the other hand, Saoirse lacks some of Eileen's grit, but her family help her through her rough times as they are intensely loyal. The character of Saoirse isn't as developed as Eileen, but I enjoyed her coming-of-age tale nonetheless.

What really stood out to me in The Queen of Dirt Island was Ryan's prose. It's gorgeous. His dialogue is perfection. The short chapters were like little vignettes that were beautifully done; reading them was like putting on your favorite oversized sweatshirt. I really marinated in a few of the lines. He is most definitely a talented writer. I will admit that at first the short chapters were jarring to me, but slowly I realized how they worked to tell the story over time. 

Ryan truly captured generations of Irish women, their strength, their fortitude, and determination in The Queen of Dirt Island. If you like family sagas, but are looking for a shorter one, this is it. While some parts were sad, ultimately Ryan's Irish humor peeks through and the story of the Alyward women was uplifting.

Is The Queen of Dirt Island on your TBR list? Do you like stories set in Ireland? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. I love stories set in Ireland, it's a place I hope to visit one day!

    1. Thanks, Angela! Me too! Ireland is one of my favorite places to visit....I hope you can travel there soon! Thanks for dropping by!


I really appreciate your comments. Thank you!

Design by: Designer Blogs