The Crocodile by the Door by Selina Guinness

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Memoir

By Bridget Aylmer

Tibradden is a farmhouse in the Dublin mountains, where the city meets the country – or, in other words, where housing estates and golf courses encroach on lands grazed by sheep and cattle. When Selina Guinness and her partner, Colin, both young academics, moved in with Selina’s uncle Charles, an elderly bachelor, they had no idea what the coming years held for them: a crash course in farming, tense discussions with helicopter-borne property developers, human tragedy, and the challenge of dragging a quasi-feudal estate into the twenty-first century. With an eye to the colorful history of the house and to the often troubled history of relations between Ireland’s landed gentry and their tenants and employees, The Crocodile by the Door provides a rich family narrative, a snapshot of the uncertain future facing Irish farmers, a classic property drama and, above all, a moving account of life, labour and loss on a hillside overlooking Dublin.

According to The Telegraph “Guinness’s first book, while rich in charm, is also poised, moving and – by the end of a heart-wrenching journey – surprisingly triumphant… the author turns the story into something close to a small masterpiece,”

And I agree. I found this to be an enchanting book – giving an insight into what the Anglo-Irish have become in the 21st century; and to what can be achieved by hard work and dedication. Selina Guinness showed the courage to continue on and not be tempted by the Celtic Tiger and selling out to developers. She also researched her family history in great detail.  I knew Charles Guinness and dined with him; she depicted him well and with a tenderness which was humbling
All in all a great read.

Bridget Aylmer

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