The Love of One's Country

Fiction - Historical - Personage
292 Pages
Reviewed on 09/10/2019
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Author Biography

I'm an Irish-born Canadian writer who has been publishing biographies and social histories for the past 19 years. This novel is a fictional sequel to my biography of a renowned Irish folk poet of the 19th century who also happened to be my ancestor. She was a famine survivor, some of whose descendants emigrated to North America to escape the misery in Ireland. In the novel, I explore the dreadful conditions that existed during the famine years and the challenges that faced the immigrants who crossed the seas.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite

In The Love Of One's Country, we first meet Jerry Burke, a man who was born and raised in Ireland but decided to leave for Canada to start a musical career in 1966. He was working at a clerical job in Dublin that didn’t fulfill him and he grabbed the first offer to go to Canada. He also wanted to begin translating his great-great-great-grandmother's written works. She was a famous poet of the early and mid-1800s. Aside from her, Jerry is eager to find out what happened to her youngest son, the Jeremiah he was named after, who left Ireland for Canada during the famine in 1847 and was never heard from again.

The novel soon jumps back and forth between Jerry and Jeremiah. For Jerry, it’s his struggle and eventual retiring from music to attend college and pursue a journalistic career. Jeremiah in 1846/47 talks about his own indecision on what to do with his life. Currently, a school teacher because he wasn’t made for the priest's life, he wants to escape the horror and famine all around them. It was during this time that an offer was made for people to go to Canada with the promise of land and money to start life anew. He immediately jumps at it and marries his sweetheart before they set sail. In Jerry’s case, we move forward from the mid-sixties to 1992 where he has been working in journalism for a while now and, with all the new changes, he isn’t sure if this is what he wants to do anymore. He, however, has a keen interest in his great-great-great-grandmother’s fame as a poet and about whatever happened to her son, his ancestor Jeremiah. His co-worker gets him started in genealogy research and the quest begins.

Brian Brennan’s The Love Of One's Country is an amazing tale of not one but two interesting characters. Two men from two very different times, yet who have a lot more in common than just blood. Creativity and music seem to be a common thread that binds the Burke family together, especially in the case of Jerry, Jeremiah and even Máire. You find yourself traveling on this ancestral journey with Jerry; the breakthroughs, the roadblocks, and even the sad news. With Jeremiah, you are traveling with him to an unknown land with hopes for a better future. I also learned a lot about the immigrants who left Ireland for Canada. We read in our history books that they left for America and Canada for a new life, but they never mention the deaths and how many never made it. Brian Brennan did a phenomenal job in writing this part of history that is so often overlooked. The Love Of One's Country is definitely a book I’d recommend everyone to read.

K.C. Finn

The Love of One’s Country is a work of historical fiction set across different time periods exploring migration efforts from Ireland to Canada and was penned by author Brian Brennan. In this deeply personal record of history, we learn of two Irishmen who made their way to Canada during difficult times in the history of Ireland, once during the potato famine of 1847, and once in 1966, not long before the infamous Troubles begin. In the more recent past, Jerry is a young man with a few secrets he’d rather leave behind, making a new life for himself, but a connection to his seemingly lost ancestor Diarmuid will reveal more about both of them than he ever thought possible.

The mingling of two core histories keeps the plot alive with new information, time shifts and plenty of intrigue whilst reading this excellent novel of personal exploration and setting out for better things. I especially enjoyed Diarmuid’s tale aboard the terrible ship that brought him from one disaster into another, and the description used to paint those older scenes marks an artful shift in the atmosphere whenever they appear. The central mystery of Jerry’s past and his desire to solve his ancestor’s disappearance is also well-paced and enjoyable to discover, alongside the emotive and relatable tale of a young man trying to make a better life for himself. Overall, Brian Brennan brings a lot of heart and a wealth of historical hardship to The Love of One’s Country, a recommended read for sure.

Astrid Iustulin

I have to admit this is the first book by Brian Brennan I have read, but I will read the others because The Love of One’s Country has so favorably impressed me. This novel tells the interwoven stories of two relatives. The first revolves around Diarmuid de Búrka, who lived in the 19th century. He left Ireland during the Great Famine of 1847 on board a coffin ship and landed in Canada. Canada is also the destination of the protagonist of the other story, Jerry. Jerry is Diarmuid's descendant and lives more than a century later. He moves to Canada because he wishes to change careers and to hide an important secret. He also wants to discover what happened to his ancestor. In fact, Diarmuid’s destiny has remained a mystery – until now.

The Love of One’s Country is a delightful piece of literature. Despite two tales set in different times and places, the storyline and the development are clear. The narrative is concise and yet riveting, while the dialogues are lively and invite the reader to know more. I like that the theme of the journey is important for both protagonists. Diarmuid leaves Ireland with the hope of finding a better life, while Jerry moves to Canada and at the same time aims at finding out the truth. This quest for the truth is a “journey” too. I have to praise Brennan’s thorough historical research. He reveals his sources at the end of The Love of One’s Country, presenting an interesting background to the story. This research makes the descriptions of the scenes on board the coffin ship realistic and offers a terrible but vivid description of what happened to the immigrants who landed at Grosse Île.

Rabia Tanveer

The Love of One's Country by Brian Brennan is the story of a man that leaves his country behind for a better future and to find out what happened to his ancestor when he left his country during the Irish Potato Famine. It was the year 1966 when Jerry Burke left his country behind for a fresh start in life. He had a steady job, a comfortable life, but a secret led him to make this decision and emigrate to Canada. But that was not his only intention when he emigrated; he also wanted to find out what happened to his ancestor Diarmuid Burke who came to Canada almost a century ago. All they know is that Diarmuid arrived in Canada, but they lost contact with him after that. It all seemed like a lost cause, but when Jerry came across a dairy by Diarmuid, he knew that this would have all the answers he needed. What would this diary contain? Will he get all the answers he needs?

This is one of the most educational and entertaining novels I have ever read. I was very much invested in the story. From the moment the author started the narrative, I knew that I was going to love every single moment of this book. The smooth flow, the amazing characters, their development and the exceptional command of detail were all the things that told me this was going to be a good book. Jerry’s character is one of those that take time to understand and then they show their potential and bloom. I am blown away with the amount of research the author has done to make the story this impactful. Reading it was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget.

Romuald Dzemo

The Love of One's Country by Brian Brennan is an intriguing story that combines adventure and elements of history to create an exciting reading experience for readers. With an international setting between Ireland and Canada, the narrative follows twenty-three-year-old Jerry Burke on an adventure to find out what happened to Diarmuid Burke who left Ireland, escaping the great Irish potato famine in 1847 to travel to Canada. What happened to him? Did he make it to Canada? This intriguing story leads to a detailed diary account of Jerry’s ancestry and opens a door into the past, an Ireland as seen through the eyes of a victim of the famine.

Brian Brennan writes a compelling historical novel, bringing to life a painful moment in Irish history — the experience of the great potato famine. Readers get vivid glimpses into Irish history and culture and follow characters that are interesting. The author uses flashbacks and journals to deepen the story. The protagonist has one quest: to find out about an ancestor. Driven by curiosity, the reader is intrigued as they follow Jerry Burke in his quest. There are many clues and readers will be keen to see where they lead the young man. The writing is great and The Love of One's Country is filled with surprises. The use of flashbacks and backstory adds to the suspense. The narrative is filled with historical details and the realism infused into the narrative makes it spellbinding. A great read, indeed.