What are the similarities and differences between Cally’s and Charlie’s homes, only about sixty miles apart in southern Ireland?
The differences are obvious: Cally was born in a one-room thatched cottage on a small farm. Charlie lives in a mansion built by his grandfather, one of the richest men in Ireland in his day. Though they are fully Irish, the Malcomson family wealth gave them more in common with the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy than with the majority poor Irish. Over 90% of Irish land was owned by fewer than a thousand people, mostly British or Anglo-Irish, who rented it to tenant farmers. (For more about this, see the Historical Notes.) Cally and Charlie’s lifestyle differences are profound. Cally has only ever seen one book: the family Bible. Charlie has a private tutor who is teaching him Latin, French, and German. Cally’s first language is Irish; Charlie’s is English. Cally’s father, Frank, works very hard to feed his family. Charlie’s father Peter also works hard, but with different expectations of what he can achieve.
The similarities between Cally and Charlie are less obvious, but as the book develops, we see interesting shared experiences and interests. Both Cally and Charlie love horses and love music, especially the music of Ireland. Cally’s father and Charlie’s mother sing to them the same Irish lullaby. Both love Irish food, like champ and barmbrack. Both have accidents. Both have complex parent relationships. Both experience profound loneliness and significant losses. Many others appear in the course of the novel.
In Horse Thief 1898, several characters bridge apparently irreconcilable points of view and life experiences. It strikes me that this matters in our own time. Are there people different from you with whom you would like to build bridges rather than fortifying barriers? What posture and skills can help achieve this? I would love to know what you think! Feel free to comment!
**Does one of the discussion questions resonate with you? I invite you to write two-four paragraphs to post here, concluding with another question to invite interaction.**