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The Tide Between Us by Olive Collins

Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
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‘Long ago I learned to stop questioning my beginnings…until my youngest son was born. A slave, who spends fourteen hours a day working on a sugar plantation, has little time for anything apart from servitude.’

The opening lines to Chapter One from a book that could not but have an impact on you. The Tide Between Us is a novel by Irish Writer Olive Collins and is another incredible publication just released by Poolbeg Press.

Today I bring you my review of this heartbreaking tale of a young Irish boy, who was taken away from his home and family in Co. Kerry,and forced to become an indentured slave/servant on an island in the Caribbean.

This is Art O’ Neill’s story…

There are some novels that give you goosebumps as you read, those novels that really hit home with you. The Tide Between Us is one such novel for me.

Maybe it’s because I am married to a Kerryman. Maybe it’s because I spent many a Summer in the seaside village of Ballyheigue, not too far from the Stack Mountains that are mentioned in this novel. Whatever the reasons I have become completely enthralled by the story of these children that were taken to the other side of the world as forced servants.

Art O’ Neill was deported to the sugar plantations of Jamaica in 1821 as an ‘indentured servant’, taken from his home in the townland of Mein, Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry. His father is wrongly hanged for a murder he did not commit, leaving Art angry, upset and an easy captive for the slave ships. With 200 other boys and girls, they set sail off the coast of Cork, from Kinsale, to a new and hard life in the sweltering heat of the Jamaican fields.

Art carries revenge in his soul, a revenge so poisonous, he carries it with him every day of his life. With the advice of an older Irish man, Art learns to survive through the hardships and struggles of life on this island far away from home.

Art’s story and those of all those poor Irish children, the majority who never set foot on Irish soil again, just broke my heart. It’s not that long ago, a part of our history I was truly unaware of…

Olive Collins wraps a wonderful mystery around Art’s story, as the reader is taken forward to 1991. A skeleton is discovered on the grounds of Lugdale Estate, in the shadows of the Kerry Mountains in North Kerry. Art O’ Neill was born in the vicinity of this estate, where the present owner Yseult, now in her eighties, lives.

Yseult carries secrets from the past that she hoped never to see surface again, but with the Garda presence now on her lands, it’s not long before Yseult has to make some decisions and face up to her family’s tragic story.

Olive Collins has written an absorbing tale that combines both fact and fiction in this beautifully told story. The Tide Between Us is a must read for all who have a passion for historical fiction. For me it is the story of Art O’ Neill and what he endured that completely stirred up my emotions, my feelings of pride for those Irish boys and girls who were taken from our land.

Jamaica is an island that now claims 25% of it’s population to be of Irish descent. Through Olive’s research she discovered that ‘There are words spoken in remote parts of Jamaica with a clear Irish lilt and there are songs sung reminiscent of the struggles that continued in their homeland while they laid roots in their exotic new home, Jamaica.’

The Tide Between Us is an emotional and truly poignant story that you will get swept up in, as you imagine the traumas and horrors of our past. With vivid descriptions that will melt your heart and bring tears to your eyes, this is a quite a disturbing tale, but also a tale of homecomings and atonement.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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