This Cold Country
About the book:
Known for her elegant prose and her keen eye for the nuances of class, Annabel Davis-Goff adds the lush immediacy of a Merchant-Ivory film to her compelling tale of a woman and a culture forever changed by World War II.
Only three days after Daisy Creed weds Patrick Nugent, heir of an Anglo-Irish family, he leaves for the war. Having never met her husband’s family, Daisy embarks for her new home, Dunmaine, in County Waterford. The family’s affairs echo its estate: grand on the outside, decaying within. Left alone with Patrick’s eccentric brother and silent grandmother, Daisy is determined to save Dunmaine and secure her place there. But before she can grasp the unspoken rules, she is unwillingly drawn into events that throw her determination off course.
Daisy Creed is a resilient, courageous, altogether enterprising Everywoman of her time in this novel about a way of life and the war that precipitated its transformation.
About the author:
Q. The characters in This Cold Country are kept apart by differences in class, nationality, religion, and political belief, but not by money. Why do you think this was the case? To what extent do we now believe ourselves to belong to a classless society? Or has our society replaced class with money as a measure by which people are judged?
Q. The year is 1940; we know who won the war, but it is easy to forget that the characters in this, and other novels with similar settings, do not have the advantage of foresight. Their lives are a delicate balance of the immediate and personal existence of the individual and their responsibilities as citizens of a nation at war. How do the feelings of the characters in this book compare to the sense of national and personal vulnerability felt for the first time by many people in this country?
Q. When James comes to Daisy’s bedroom do you think of him as a hot-blooded young man who doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions toward Daisy? Or is he a cold-blooded seducer,
a cad? Or do you think that he is aware of “war and its brutal suggestion that time was, even for the young, a commodity no one could afford to waste”? How do you think war changes people’s view of conventional morality?
Q. Do you think Daisy is unwise to marry a man she hardly knows? Or do you think that she is right to have taken marriage and temporary happiness where she could? How limited do you think her chances of either would be if she had waited until after the war?
Q. After the war, many people looking back said it was one of the happiest times of their lives. Do you believe this to be true? Does each of us have a place where we belong, a right time and place in history?
Q. Daisy recites “Dover Beach” to herself when she is afraid. But the message of Matthew Arnold’s poem is not so optimistic. What is he telling us?
Q. The Anglo-Irish family that Daisy marries into represents the generations after Irish independence who once were the privileged classes. Now they have neither political power nor money. How do you think they managed to live? And why do you think the shopkeepers and merchants allowed them credit for so long?
Q. Mickey and Corisande have, in different ways, flawed characters. Are they a product of their historical environment? Does this background account for certain gaps in Patrick’s character?
Q. “You may be surprised by how differently they read.” Mickey is speaking about two history books, one English the other Irish, that describe the same events. What does Daisy learn by comparing the two?
Q. Maud lives in the past. Daisy thinks happy beginnings and middles are worth more than happy endings. How do these attitudes compare with your own?
Q. Ireland was a neutral country during the Second World War. How much does this neutrality owe to Ireland’s previous relationship with England?
Q. The population of the Republic of Ireland is approximately three-and-a-half million; yet the Irish have written a disproportionate amount of the world’s great literature. Wilde, Shaw, Sheridan, Joyce, Beckett, O’Casey, Elizabeth Bowen, Maria Edgeworth, William Trevor, Goldsmith, Yeats, Frank O’Connor, Swift, Synge and Seamus Heaney-four of them Nobel Prize winners-are among the most famous. Why has such a small island produced such a wealth of literature? Why has the Anglo-Irish minority produced such a large proportion of Irish literature?