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In Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden

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From the authors of This Is Happiness and Her Name Is Rose, a memoir of life in rural Ireland and a meditation on the power, beauty, and importance of the natural world. 35 years ago, when they were in their twenties, Niall Williams and Christine Breen made the impulsive decision to leave their lives in New York City and move to Christine's ancestral home in the town o From the authors of This Is Happiness and Her Name Is Rose, a memoir of life in rural Ireland and a meditation on the power, beauty, and importance of the natural world. 35 years ago, when they were in their twenties, Niall Williams and Christine Breen made the impulsive decision to leave their lives in New York City and move to Christine's ancestral home in the town of Kiltumper in rural Ireland. In the decades that followed, the pair dedicated themselves to writing, gardening, and living a life that followed the rhythms of the earth. In 2019, with Christine in the final stages of recovery from cancer and the land itself threatened by the arrival of turbines just one farm over, Niall and Christine decided to document a year of living in their garden and in their small corner of a rapidly changing world. Proceeding month-by-month through the year, and with beautiful seasonal illustrations, this is the story of a garden in all its many splendors and a couple who have made their life observing its wonders.


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From the authors of This Is Happiness and Her Name Is Rose, a memoir of life in rural Ireland and a meditation on the power, beauty, and importance of the natural world. 35 years ago, when they were in their twenties, Niall Williams and Christine Breen made the impulsive decision to leave their lives in New York City and move to Christine's ancestral home in the town o From the authors of This Is Happiness and Her Name Is Rose, a memoir of life in rural Ireland and a meditation on the power, beauty, and importance of the natural world. 35 years ago, when they were in their twenties, Niall Williams and Christine Breen made the impulsive decision to leave their lives in New York City and move to Christine's ancestral home in the town of Kiltumper in rural Ireland. In the decades that followed, the pair dedicated themselves to writing, gardening, and living a life that followed the rhythms of the earth. In 2019, with Christine in the final stages of recovery from cancer and the land itself threatened by the arrival of turbines just one farm over, Niall and Christine decided to document a year of living in their garden and in their small corner of a rapidly changing world. Proceeding month-by-month through the year, and with beautiful seasonal illustrations, this is the story of a garden in all its many splendors and a couple who have made their life observing its wonders.

56 review for In Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Reading this book is a lovely and moving experience. Rather than giant plots - there are two giant people: Niall Williams, and Christine Breen. Rather than earth shattering suspenseful twists and turns, there is earth plowing, tilling, fertilizing, seeding, sowing, watering, and love-laboring in the garden. Unpretentious- and magnificent .....Niall and Chris tell us intimately about their lives. A couple that are extremely close....have a blessed marriage, home, a quiet lifestyle together - away Reading this book is a lovely and moving experience. Rather than giant plots - there are two giant people: Niall Williams, and Christine Breen. Rather than earth shattering suspenseful twists and turns, there is earth plowing, tilling, fertilizing, seeding, sowing, watering, and love-laboring in the garden. Unpretentious- and magnificent .....Niall and Chris tell us intimately about their lives. A couple that are extremely close....have a blessed marriage, home, a quiet lifestyle together - away from city noise. They write. They garden. They cherish the magnitude of this. The way their gardening is described- literally and figuratively - month by month- describing gardening needs, expectations, changes, colors, scents, and growth - we experience how beautifully they dance together — through the seasons and years — each spring, summer, fall, and winter. I deeply relate to Niall and Chris .... I cherish my own wonderful plantsman husband of 42 years, our magnificent garden, (Paul takes the lead with our worms and tilling the soil, more than me), books, reading, (I take this lead), and our side-by-side living our quiet lives. Our garden … and saline pools … are loves of our lives. Niall and Chris’s book is especially a gift to garden lovers - and couples who cherish theirs like a child. The prose is alluring and exquisite..... ....Niall, Chris, marriage, gardening, writing, reading, are the important aspects - the intimate aspects of their lives are gracefully written. Their prose kept me attached to this lovely couple and nature. At times I stopped reading to absorb their combined beauty, lucidity, and passion. I’ve been a fan of Niall Williams novels for years. I’m now a fan of his wife, Christine Breen, too. It was an honor to read “In Kiltumper”..... I take away ‘much more’ than a year experience living their Irish Garden..... I take away overwhelming - amounts of love, faith, and appreciation. A few excerpts: “I am aware that some of my sense of urgency to write about Kiltumper this year stems from the decision of the planners to designate this a place suitable for wind exploitation. Besides all the other objections we have to this, besides knowing that no planner stood in our garden, or on the hill of Upper Tumper, in fact did know actual regarding before making this decision, there is simply a feeling of hurt on behalf of a place we love”. “The garden at Kiltumper could not exist anywhere else. If, as we have sometimes thought in the past year, we may have to leave here when the turbines come in on us, if we can hear them turning in the garden, in the house when the window is open, we know we cannot bring the garden with us, nor could we replicate it anywhere else, which makes the thought of that loss all the more potent. Because in some real and essential way, the garden is our life here”. “Today we go to Chris’s oncology appointment in Galway” These have been a feature on the landscape of the past four years since she collapsed in London and had a large tumor removed from her bowel. Fighting is the word they use for cancer, and time and time again, you realize how apt that is. Nor does the fight quite end, and there is a kind of ongoing spiritual and psychological impact in that. Nonetheless, the cancer patients treatment is measured in oncology appointments, and the further you get from the surgery and the chemotherapy the further apart the appointments become, so you have a sense of moving away and gradually, if you are very lucky, and two new terrain. This is how it has seemed to me. Through all of it, intense and against extraordinary odds, Chris has battled —the adverb that has occurred to me is the old one — valiantly. And whatever help I and our children have been and being by her side, near or far, the real support troops were certainly in the garden in Kiltumper”. “Evenings you could pause at the front door and see the whole of the garden in a standing stillness with scatters of color like brushstrokes, or dancers, birds darting against the late night, and everything held as in composition over thirty years in the making. And under the spell of that, you forget how frail and vulnerable the whole thing is”. July in the garden was “too sensual to be comprehended”. Niall was in the quiet rapture of his ‘sensual’ thought, when Chris walked into the conservatory where he was writing. She had that flushed face of summer work. “The weeds are growing too fast”, she said. Then Chris says to Niall, “I hope you’re not just writing that it’s wonderful, are you?” “But it is”. “She smiles her extraordinary smile. You! she says. And we’re both near enough to laughing. Something of our whole life together is in this, my dreaming and her truthfulness. The necessary components of all gardens? (And a good marriage perhaps?) My mind will come back to this later, I know; in my notebook I jot down something, but midsummer is too busy now for anything other than notes on the fly. There will be plenty of dark and wet days ahead for rumination and philosophy”. From spinach, to poppies, ( more than you can count), perennials to slugs, earth worms, and insects…. peonies, delphiniums, a purple baptisia, miniature daisies, purple irises, a tower of pink, purple, and purple-red sweet peas, geraniums, (there are so many they could have their own chapter), scabious, purple lupin, roses, Dahlias, Bamboo canes and green twine….. etc. etc…. gardening is healing. Gardening is love. Thank you Netgalley, Bloomsbury, Niall, and Chris.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    “A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.” - Wendell Berry Written by Niall Williams and Christeen Breen who have shared their life in a lovely rural spot in County Clare for thirty-five years, this is the story of their love of the land, the garden, and a life that allows for space and time to breathe, appreciating their surroundings, as well as the bounty that gardening can bring. ’All gardens are asking for attention all the tim “A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.” - Wendell Berry Written by Niall Williams and Christeen Breen who have shared their life in a lovely rural spot in County Clare for thirty-five years, this is the story of their love of the land, the garden, and a life that allows for space and time to breathe, appreciating their surroundings, as well as the bounty that gardening can bring. ’All gardens are asking for attention all the time, and the return for that attention is to gift you an essential now, the present moment, where you are face to face with the nature of things. Lest that sound too grand, or abstract, what I mean is the very opposite. There is nothing abstract about the heavy clay growing heavier in the blown rain of Kiltumper, and nothing too grand in “Niall, we need to de-caterpillar the kale now.” 'But there is a kind of happiness.’ - quote from NY Times 2019 interview with Niall Williams Is Anyone Happy Anymore? This is the second of the memoirs written by this husband and wife team that I’ve read, the first being O Come Ye Back to Ireland, which I read some four years ago. Reading any of his books never fails to transport me back to Ireland, but even more so these books in which they share their lives there, living in the place where Christine’s grandfather was born, along with his grandfather, as well. When they moved there, it was somewhat on a whim, eager to live a life on their terms. I doubt they’ve regretted it overall. It is where their children were raised, where they wrote their books, with Chris painting or drawing at times, or in the garden at others, often with Niall, sometimes on her own. A spot on this earth that brings them both joy, It is a garden which feels like home to them, a different form of expressing themselves, and sharing beauty with others. It is a relatively quiet life, living in rhythm with the seasons, the reverence they have for this place, this land and for this life they’ve been given, as well as the life they’ve managed to fashion for themselves. A life that hasn’t always been easy, but it has been filled with love. Love for each other, their family, the land they live on and for the generations that came before them, as well as those that will follow. There’s that sense of wondering what will follow in the future - will their lives, all of our lives, change? Between global environmental challenges and having lived sixty-some years, thirty-five of which have been on this land, in this home - what changes are in the future, and which will be good changes vs. bad? Christine’s health has been a challenge for some time, and it is never far from their minds to begin with, but add to that environmental changes, and life challenges, they always are having to weigh the pros and cons. But then there is the garden, which like most gardens has been an evolution over these thirty-five years, always, always a work-in-progress. It is a part of them, their hearts, souls and bodies are what have tended it, and given the garden life. The garden, in turn, has fed their hearts and souls and bodies, as well, sharing it’s life with them. The New York Times article ’Is Anyone Happy Anymore?’ ‘We’ve lost our ability to take comfort in small things.’ - Dec. 21, 2019 Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/21/op... Published: 31 Aug 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Bloomsbury USA / Bloomsbury Publishing

  3. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    Niall Williams and Christine Breen have gone to great lengths to describe their lives in Ireland. They are originally from the US and have been Irish residents for 37 years. Both are in their 60's and their loving marriage is highlighted as well as the obvious respect they have for each other. The impetus for this sharing is the coming of wind turbines to the area. The landscape is going to change dramatically. At the very least, many of the old stone walls will be removed. Niall and Chris are bo Niall Williams and Christine Breen have gone to great lengths to describe their lives in Ireland. They are originally from the US and have been Irish residents for 37 years. Both are in their 60's and their loving marriage is highlighted as well as the obvious respect they have for each other. The impetus for this sharing is the coming of wind turbines to the area. The landscape is going to change dramatically. At the very least, many of the old stone walls will be removed. Niall and Chris are both worried about the negative effects these will have on their lives. We read much about the beautiful plants in their garden: trees, flowers and produce. Niall also shares some musings on memory, the lessons learned from gardening, and remoteness. As a Catholic, I was especially touched by the outdoor mass celebrated by Father Tim. Niall was touched as well. I was introduced to Wendell Berry, who writes "superbly and urgently about nature". The descriptive writing of Williams is a treasure. I can picture myself being with the couple in the west of Ireland. I see more Niall Williams (AND Wendell Berry) in my reading future. 5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Holly Senecal

    How do I start?... Well, I have always dreamed of going to Ireland...family history, Irish blood. Don't know if I'll ever get there in person but In Kiltumper let me spend a year there by reading. Niall Williams and Christine Breen have written quite a few books and I have read most of them, but I think, and I will dare to say it...this is one of my favorites. You can feel the love for their home and native land that just lives in the words they share with us. What a gift they have and how lucky How do I start?... Well, I have always dreamed of going to Ireland...family history, Irish blood. Don't know if I'll ever get there in person but In Kiltumper let me spend a year there by reading. Niall Williams and Christine Breen have written quite a few books and I have read most of them, but I think, and I will dare to say it...this is one of my favorites. You can feel the love for their home and native land that just lives in the words they share with us. What a gift they have and how lucky as readers are we to receive it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    In Kiltumper by Niall Williams and Christine Breen is a wonderful book that has so many components. It is: nature, reflections and memoir, gardening, and also part inspiration. This is the first book that I have had the privilege of reading from this author duo, and now I am most certainly a fan. I have already been exploring their previous books, as I am so enamored by this book. This book takes the reader in this couple’s home, lives, grounds, garden, and at times inner being, as a full calenda In Kiltumper by Niall Williams and Christine Breen is a wonderful book that has so many components. It is: nature, reflections and memoir, gardening, and also part inspiration. This is the first book that I have had the privilege of reading from this author duo, and now I am most certainly a fan. I have already been exploring their previous books, as I am so enamored by this book. This book takes the reader in this couple’s home, lives, grounds, garden, and at times inner being, as a full calendar year goes by. We can see, smell, envision, feel, and almost experience the colors, sensations, work, textures, and sounds that surround them in their garden and home. The ability to transcribe all of these concepts into prose is just stunning. They take us inside not only their grounds and daily lives, but also their most vulnerable segments of their world. It was fascinating, reflective, personal, and touching. I really felt as if I was there, and I have known them for a lifetime. The transitions from one subject to the next, from one season to another, were smooth and effortless. The balance of memoir and nature was perfect. I truly loved this book and I hope we will be able to continue to follow along with them on their journey. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Bloomsbury Publishing for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burke

    A thousand years ago, back in the late 1980's, I was in my first Irish roots-finding phase and picked up a copy of "O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare". It was the story of a couple moving to Ireland to live in the house of their ancestors. It was a charming and eye-opening look at an exquisite dream meeting up with the shock of reality. Fast forward to this year. I saw the listing for "In Kiltumper - A Year in an Irish Garden" by the same couple, Niall Williams and Christi A thousand years ago, back in the late 1980's, I was in my first Irish roots-finding phase and picked up a copy of "O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare". It was the story of a couple moving to Ireland to live in the house of their ancestors. It was a charming and eye-opening look at an exquisite dream meeting up with the shock of reality. Fast forward to this year. I saw the listing for "In Kiltumper - A Year in an Irish Garden" by the same couple, Niall Williams and Christine Breen, thirty-five years later. I was unaware that both had been writing this whole time, and now we find them at a crossroads. This struck me as similar to my experience with Facebook... finding friends I had not been in touch with for decades while the whole gulf of young adulthood had been flashing by. The land Christine and Niall have been living in is being threatened. Giant wind turbines are being installed just about on top of them. Trees and ancient roadside stone walls have to be pulverized to accommodate the transport of these turbos. In a land rarely touched by any man-made noise pollution, the fans will be droning day and night. These so-called "wind farms" will hover as mechanical intrusions to a virgin landscape. Add in the very real climate damage done by global warming and you see the concern these two have about the future for a place where time had previously had little effect. Please do not be put off if you fear something approximating a technical gardening manual--my gardening experience is limited to one dubious tomato plant in Boy Scouts. I had fully intended to scan over any details about flowers or vegetables, the way I sometimes (with a tinge of guilt) scan over poetry passages in a novel. I was pulled in, though-- how could I not be? A raging storm is about to make landfall and they are outside meticulously tying plants to bamboo supports. Niall says Chris "...is like a mother whose children are out there in a dark hazardous elsewhere." These people care so much about the struggle to maintain and improve the garden and land they dwell on while wondering if this paradise has any future at all. "In Kiltumper" rates 5 stars for a year's rich experience working the Irish countryside. I also just re-ordered the original "O Come Ye Back to Ireland"-- it is time to revisit old friends. I thank the authors, Bloomsbury Publishing, and NetGalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. Posting today on NetGalley and GoodReads. "In Kiltumper - A Year in an Irish Garden" publishes on August 31, 2021 and I will be posting this review on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Book Bub, and Twitter on that day. #InKiltumper #NetGalley

  7. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. In Kiltumper is a wonderfully written ode to gardening passion and life, and an engaging personal biography of an Irish garden by Niall Williams and Christine Breen. Due out in late Aug 2021 from Bloomsbury, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's presented in chronological chapters, starting in January, and contains snippets and conversations from the owner/residents about how they came to move to Ireland Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. In Kiltumper is a wonderfully written ode to gardening passion and life, and an engaging personal biography of an Irish garden by Niall Williams and Christine Breen. Due out in late Aug 2021 from Bloomsbury, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's presented in chronological chapters, starting in January, and contains snippets and conversations from the owner/residents about how they came to move to Ireland from New York 35 years ago to make a life in the countryside writing and gardening and how they have impacted the place they live and how it's also shaped them, profoundly. It contains a number of rough line drawn illustrations which go very well with the casual, intimate details of the year and what their gardening life has entailed. There's an almost lyrical quality to the writing, told in both the authors' voices in contrapuntal prose. The voices are delineated by typeset - italics interspersed with plain text and ruminating on subjects as diverse as climate change and windmill turbines to Christine Breen's encounters with cancer and subsequent treatments and recovery (including a truly harrowing account of her extreme allergic reaction to chemotherapy - *brr*). Apart from the cover, which is lush and beautiful, the book doesn't contain any photographs, just beautifully written prose and the simple line drawings. I found it a perfect companion for a week's slow reading enjoyment. This would be a good choice for library acquisition, for gardeners, and lovers of horticulture, as well as making a lovely gift. Five stars. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    "The peas aren't happy, Niall" said Chris. No one but a gardener who is so attuned to the earth and it's surroundings would say that. I was mesmerized by the leap of faith this couple took three decades or more ago to move to Ireland and live on their writing and gardening skills. I suspect there are many of us who would jump at the chance for such a life although then and now it wasn't always easy but nothing can compare to the solace of a gardening life. All gardeners face weather vagaries and "The peas aren't happy, Niall" said Chris. No one but a gardener who is so attuned to the earth and it's surroundings would say that. I was mesmerized by the leap of faith this couple took three decades or more ago to move to Ireland and live on their writing and gardening skills. I suspect there are many of us who would jump at the chance for such a life although then and now it wasn't always easy but nothing can compare to the solace of a gardening life. All gardeners face weather vagaries and animal interference but the wind turbines! So close and such an abomination of noise. I am reminded of a wooden statue of a man in prison garb hanging his head and it was entitled "What will the harvest be?" We need to save our world by using less fossil fuel but at what cost if it means tearing up the beautiful countryside. Needless to say, I truly enjoyed this book and thank Goodreads for a copy for my review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katy Wheatley

    I feel like I came into this story at the end, rather than the beginning. I was unaware that Niall and Christine had written other books about their time in Kiltumper before this one and I just feel I would have enjoyed this so much more had I read the earlier books. Or maybe not. Maybe it would have made their despair at the changes being wrought to the land around them, even harder to bear. I found the book sad. Not in a 'pathetic' sense but in a true sense of being sad. It felt like a winding I feel like I came into this story at the end, rather than the beginning. I was unaware that Niall and Christine had written other books about their time in Kiltumper before this one and I just feel I would have enjoyed this so much more had I read the earlier books. Or maybe not. Maybe it would have made their despair at the changes being wrought to the land around them, even harder to bear. I found the book sad. Not in a 'pathetic' sense but in a true sense of being sad. It felt like a winding down and in part an incantation to try and ward off further evil. There is so much here that speaks of loss and regret and looking back and the fear of what the future will bring. The bits about the garden, as in the physical descriptions of the garden and the planting and the work were lovely and I wanted more of that. I fully appreciate that this is not that book that I wanted and if you've read the others it will be good. I just need to go and start at the beginning.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Violet

    2.5 rounded up. I have very mixed feelings about this book - some passages were just lovely, and some a bit cringy. The book is organised by month - starting with the New Year until December - with both Niall Williams and Christine Breen writing. Christine's paragraphs appear in italics, and the text otherwise is mostly Niall, which makes the collaboration seem uneven - and Christine's writing feels like footnotes rather than a contribution. It is a shame, especially given the fact I found Christ 2.5 rounded up. I have very mixed feelings about this book - some passages were just lovely, and some a bit cringy. The book is organised by month - starting with the New Year until December - with both Niall Williams and Christine Breen writing. Christine's paragraphs appear in italics, and the text otherwise is mostly Niall, which makes the collaboration seem uneven - and Christine's writing feels like footnotes rather than a contribution. It is a shame, especially given the fact I found Christine's writing more enjoyable - she delights in describing flowers, makes her experience very personal and heartfelt, where Niall mostly quotes other writers (Robert Macfarlane is a favourite, quoted every few pages.) Christine is described by Niall many times as an "instinctive gardener" while he portrays himself as the intellectual who likes nature but mostly writing and reading about it, with less practical knowledge. This was repeated so many times that he came across as a vain and pretentious man whose compliments towards his wife as his opposite - someone who feels the earth, and is definitely not an intellectual - passive-agressive. Reading Christine, she definitely seems as educated and knowledgeable as him, and her writing feels more genuine, as well as more pleasant - Niall has a habit of switching from the lyrical to the colloquial and starts every other sentence with "And," or "So," which I found distracting. He seems very aware of this and keeps writing things like "I'm not being clear enough here", resulting in the same ideas being expressed a couple of times because he cannot articulate them clearly. Despite money being mentioned later in the book, when Niall complains that their revenue is unstable and hard to predict, they both seem somewhat tone-deaf: they moved from New York to Clare, where Christine's ancestors are from, bought the very house these ancestors once owned, "only following a prompting in [their] spirits that [they] wanted to live true to [their] own nature". They describe it as "a purely romantic impulse"with "no thought given to whether or not we had any talent, how we would actually make a living, nor what it would really mean to try and live from words and earth in a rural place on the edge of Europe". At that moment I was reminded of something Chelsea Fagan, (the financial blogger) said - "A lot of things that we think take a lot of courage actually just take a lot of money" (for example, "quitting your job with no backup" or "starting over in a new city") and it would have been nice to see them acknowledge that privileged position. I also expected illness to be a larger part of the memoir; it does appear every now and then, as Christine has to do a checkup every six months and anxiously waits to know if she really is recovered from cancer; but it feels more like a side note than the essence of the book. The essence of the book, really, is the wind turbines being installed 500 meters from their house. That's where the book really takes a turn for the worse as Niall and Christine both write extensively (Niall more than Christine, again) about their anger and complain at lengths about the wind turbines and the damage - trees being felled, roads having to be widened, the noise, the ruined landlscape. Anyone can sympathise with that, I doubt Greta Thunberg herself would enjoy living so close to three wind turbines. However Niall Williams writes so much about it that it becomes.... suspicious. Environmental concerns are only brought up in the last few chapters of the book, and while he recognises that green energy is important, he goes on and on about why wind turbines are not a good solution: they cost a lot of energy to make, they ruin the landscape, they are noisy. His solution? Have them all inside at sea, like what has been done in the US, so they are not visible and the noise cannot be heard. He fails to mention the fact that they will still take as much energy and create as much carbon to be made and transported to the sea - so really, the issue is just the proximity to his house, isn't it? It's fine - really, everyone understands that - but the bashing of "green energy" (he dislikes the term - it is not green as it creates a lot of carbon emission to be built and transported - which apparently defeats the point of having them installed) is too constant, too much. When he writes defensively that maybe he is just too old to understand, he seems aware of how he comes across: a boomer who never really thought about the environment and is devastated that the consequences of the crisis are reaching him. When he describes seeing pheasants while on his walk to pick up some turf to burn in the fireplace, I had to laugh: peat is hardly a green energy, releases tons of carbon dioxide and their use accelerates climate change. When he casually mentions it after spending page after page complaining that wind turbines are not even "green", it's hard to believe this person actually reads about the environment or cares about it. His rage about wind turbines being so near his house is, again, understandable. But I would have kept that rage for a sassy Tweet and not for 30 pages of my book on gardening. I could go on but overall, this is a book that made me angry at times - the privilege that they never acknowledge, the hatred for the Green party ("the future will be much less green for going Green"), the poor writing many times - but there are also lovely passages. Christine's descriptions of what she grows are moving and genuine; Niall's recollections of his grandfather and his roses were enjoyable to read and very touching. But the whole book together felt clumsy and unfinished. Free ARC received from Netgalley.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Dilley

    I absolutely loved this book, in which husband and wife Niall Williams and Christine Breen describe a year in their garden in Kiltumper, County Clare. The major events which shape the book are the arrival of two wind turbines 500 metres from their garden, and Christine's recovery from bowel cancer, but the book ranges much more widely than this, looking back on the life they have built together since arriving in Kiltumper, describing the texture of their days through the changing seasons, and re I absolutely loved this book, in which husband and wife Niall Williams and Christine Breen describe a year in their garden in Kiltumper, County Clare. The major events which shape the book are the arrival of two wind turbines 500 metres from their garden, and Christine's recovery from bowel cancer, but the book ranges much more widely than this, looking back on the life they have built together since arriving in Kiltumper, describing the texture of their days through the changing seasons, and reflecting on what sort of future exists for their way of life. I had read several of Niall's novels before, so was used to the beauty of his writing, which was likewise in evidence here: I can't think of any other writer who could suffuse descriptions of eating a home-grown tomato or washing a woollen hat with such lyricism and grace. However, Christine's voice adds so much to this book (she is also a writer as well as being the chief gardener, and they have co-authored a number of books about their early years in Kiltumper), particularly her affectionate teasing of "Himself" for his occasional mistakes in the garden, which he accepts with good grace. So much of their writing is about each other, and this book is thus a deeply moving tribute to the strength of their relationship and to what they have built together. By hearing both of their voices we also get to know them in a way that wouldn't be possible with just a single voice; it is almost like we have been welcomed into their home. Like most nature writing, this book is deeply concerned with the state of our planet, the arrival of the wind turbines prompts a nuanced consideration of how "the human and spiritual value of the countryside is too great to be spent simply as a resource for energy." They acknowledge the necessity of renewable energy whilst lamenting the destructive consequences of the wind turbines in their community, such as the demolition of a two-hundred-year-old stone wall to make the road wide enough to transport the turbines - and the fact that these were approved by planners who had never visited Kiltumper. As Niall reflects, "in places like Kiltumper, the future will be much less green for going Green." Niall and Christine show that they are seriously engaged with environmental issues and their their objections to the turbines are not based on NIMBYism but a genuine concern for rural Ireland and its future. Although nature is the focus of the book, many of the most touching descriptions are of human encounters - from an open-air Mass celebrated in their garden, to the first writers' workshop they hosted, to everyday encounters with their neighbours. These, too, add to our sense of the magic which Kiltumper exerts on all who visit it. Even though I have very little horticultural knowledge, I found this a brilliant read and would highly recommend this book - thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC to review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jasmon

    I've literally just finished reading this, and feel a little bereft. In the way you do when you've become part of a book and aren't quite sure what to do once it's finished. (The book itself seems to feel this: the year of the narrative ends and the epilogue keeps us there, dipping into the parts of the following year, bringing us up to date. In the nature of a garden, it feels that this really ought to continue forever, and it must have been harder than usual to bring the book to an end!). Overa I've literally just finished reading this, and feel a little bereft. In the way you do when you've become part of a book and aren't quite sure what to do once it's finished. (The book itself seems to feel this: the year of the narrative ends and the epilogue keeps us there, dipping into the parts of the following year, bringing us up to date. In the nature of a garden, it feels that this really ought to continue forever, and it must have been harder than usual to bring the book to an end!). Overall? A picture of a garden, a portrait of a long marriage, a meditation on the nature of life and ageing and family. A history - both personal and touching on the wider world. A sense of the deep contradictions of green policy and the state of the world and the climate. A capture of a community, a soaked-in sense of being. I also come from Irish emigre stock, and in a parallel world I would be living in the cottage of my forebears (in Kerry rather than Clare) rather than on a boat in the North of England. This gave me a tiny sense of what that life might have looked like. I won't ever have that experience, but I do (thanks to Brexit) now have Irish citizenship and the right to an Irish passport, so who knows what might happen in the future? I'm left sure that I will be trying again with kale this coming year, and maybe peas, with a complex structure of canes to keep them up. As with the best of creative non-fiction, this book opens out the sense of a conversation. I want to tell Chris and Niall that I get the canes for my little tiny patch of towpath garden from the overspilling bamboo planted in the garden of one of the neighbouring houses. I will be re-visiting the garden in Kiltumper again, that's for sure.

  13. 4 out of 5

    joyce w. laudon

    When I read this couple’s first book, O Come Ye Back to Ireland, I fell in love. With the couple, with their story and the way in which their story was told. I went on to read the other memoirs about their life in Ireland. These included The Pipes Are Calling and Summer’s in the Meadow. Every one of these was beautifully written and I felt that I knew Christine and Niall. I was beyond excited to see that this couple had written another book together. (They have each written other titles separatel When I read this couple’s first book, O Come Ye Back to Ireland, I fell in love. With the couple, with their story and the way in which their story was told. I went on to read the other memoirs about their life in Ireland. These included The Pipes Are Calling and Summer’s in the Meadow. Every one of these was beautifully written and I felt that I knew Christine and Niall. I was beyond excited to see that this couple had written another book together. (They have each written other titles separately.) It felt like I was being given a wonderful opportunity to connect with old friends after many years. I adored this book. Its structure allows each author to have a voice. The hardest thing was to realize that, just like all of us, Niall, Christine and their children have gotten older with the passing years. They are no longer the young Irish-American and Irish duo who decided to leave the bustle of the city for their family’s homeland. I was eager to learn how the years have passed for both them, those around them, their farm, their garden and their world. I highly recommend this title. For the full joyful experience, consider going back to the beginning with them. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I am so envious! I would have so enjoyed walking away from my life in the city and moved to the country. Alas, life had other plans for me. I know the trials and tribulations of caring for a tiny city lot garden. It brought me both joy and despair, so I can relate. Kudos to Niall and Christine for sharing their journey. It's a lovely tale and I enjoyed the reading of it! Gardeners everywhere will likely love this book ; it would make a great gift! I received a Kinlde arc from Netgalley in exchang I am so envious! I would have so enjoyed walking away from my life in the city and moved to the country. Alas, life had other plans for me. I know the trials and tribulations of caring for a tiny city lot garden. It brought me both joy and despair, so I can relate. Kudos to Niall and Christine for sharing their journey. It's a lovely tale and I enjoyed the reading of it! Gardeners everywhere will likely love this book ; it would make a great gift! I received a Kinlde arc from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    I didn't know who the authors are but I'm a keen gardener and a story about a garden is something I couldn't miss. Gardening is spending time, being patient and loving plants and the earth, the authors did an excellent job in describing what is their life in the garden. There're happy moments, difficulties and issues. I found their stories and their descriptions fascinating. The style of writing is lyrical at times and they are good storyteller. It's strongly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher I didn't know who the authors are but I'm a keen gardener and a story about a garden is something I couldn't miss. Gardening is spending time, being patient and loving plants and the earth, the authors did an excellent job in describing what is their life in the garden. There're happy moments, difficulties and issues. I found their stories and their descriptions fascinating. The style of writing is lyrical at times and they are good storyteller. It's strongly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  16. 4 out of 5

    ᴘᴀᴘᴇʀʙᴀᴄᴋ ʀᴏsᴇs

    Beautiful! Reading books like this one brings me a deep appreciation for gardens and their incredible history and culture around the world. This one in Ireland is magical, and I loved reading about it, as well as looking at the gorgeous pictures. I feel that reading books about gardens like this bring a sense of peace and joy in such a difficult world. If you love gardens or even nature, then pick this beautiful book up!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Crowe

    Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden by Niall Williams with Christine Breen 35 years ago Niall and Christine who are married made a decision to leave the city and move to a family farm in West Clare County Ireland. This book shares their lives and their garden for those years. The garden development and tending is inspirational along with philosophy and insights they have gained over time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Jennings

    From the authors of This Is Happiness and Her Name Is Rose, a memoir of life in rural Ireland and a meditation on the power, beauty, and importance of the natural world. And that says it all...a wonderful read by an exceptional writer... Highly Recommended!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stacy Sheehan-Wilson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jane S.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rick Duggan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Ornat

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bloomsbury Publishing

  25. 5 out of 5

    Virginia McGee Butler

  26. 4 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

  27. 5 out of 5

    Debee Sue

  28. 4 out of 5

    Judith Ihrig

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  30. 5 out of 5

    Homerun2

  31. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

  32. 4 out of 5

    Anbolyn

  33. 4 out of 5

    MMHM

  34. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

  35. 4 out of 5

    Ann

  36. 4 out of 5

    Steven Schend

  37. 5 out of 5

    Sarah M-L

  38. 5 out of 5

    Holly Maynard

  39. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Hammelef

  40. 5 out of 5

    M

  41. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  42. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  43. 4 out of 5

    Katharine

  44. 5 out of 5

    Colleen TMSM

  45. 5 out of 5

    Bailey S.

  46. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  47. 4 out of 5

    Edward

  48. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  49. 5 out of 5

    Landon Cidor

  50. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  51. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Maki

  52. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Brooks

  53. 5 out of 5

    Little Freeze Library

  54. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

  55. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  56. 5 out of 5

    Sam

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