The Parish and the Hill
Afterword by Anne Halley
Told from the vantage point of a young woman who grows to maturity in a New England mill town in the 1920s, The Parish and the Hill portrays three generations of an Irish immigrant family in their urge to negotiate multiple identities. Originally published in 1948, The Parish and the Hill is now identified as one of the finest works of Irish American fiction, and one of the first to explore Irish life from a woman's point of view. The central character, Mary O’Connor, is the product of a family and a town divided by the conflicting values of the "shanty" and "lace-curtain" Irish. Brilliant and powerful on the themes of alienation, social class, and alcoholism, the novel offers complex and unforgettable portraits of the love between grandfather and granddaughter, mother and children, sister and brother.
"The beauty and depth of [Curran's] writing recall the most powerful of Willa Cather's works, which deal with the hard- won education and independence of a gifted young woman. It is grand to have The Parish and the Hill back in print."
"To genteel Irish palates Mary Curran's broad, colorful, unrelieved descriptions may seem as strong and fiery as the undiluted Irish whiskey."
"This lyric and haunting novel about three generations of Irish immigrants deserves a visible place in the multi-ethnic tradition of American literature. Through the working-class consciousness of its female narrator, it celebrates the democratic ideals of the early O'Sullivans who find themselves among Yankee, Polish, and 'lace-curtain' Irish neighbors in a mill town in western Massachusetts. The text's classic storytelling, mythic framework, and memorable minor characters make this a most 'teachable' novel."
"By using their own words and the perspective of a young girl narrator, Mary Doyle Curran not only recreates three generations of an Irish immigrant family but poignantly evokes their faith in the American dream, their bewilderment as they see their hope fade, and the dignity with which they accept their roles as outsiders."
"Mary Curran was my teacher at Wellesley in the late forties, the only teacher I had at college who asked new questions. She first published The Parish and the Hill in those years, telling the truth about Irish-Americans as she taught us to seek the truth in other less conventional, uncanonized literature. I celebrate the republication of her moving novel and its story of class, bondage, and the courage of women in the early days of Irish immigration to the United States, and in the hard years that followed. This is a fine novel from those dark, postwar years by a memorable woman who illuminated those years for me and many others."