Annie Dunne Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Annie Dunne

While Annie Dunne is living with her cousin, Sarah Cullen, on a small farm in Kelsha [in a remote part of Wicklow, Ireland], her grand-niece and grand-nephew spend one summer with them, during which Sarah reviews her life and has profound emotional experiences and insights. In Annie Dunne [ISBN0-670-031112-7], Sebastian Barry has written an almost poetic, evocative description of the Annie Dunne, her family, and the beautiful surroundings in which they live “…a remote and beautiful part of Wicklow in…Ireland.”
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It is 1959. Annie lives with her cousin Sarah on a small farm where they work extremely hard doing all the things that men usually do on farms, in addition to the traditional work of women. Neither woman has ever married – Sarah because she feels she is ugly and Annie because she had polio as a child, leaving her with a deformity in her back – or has had children.

Before living with Sarah, Annie lived with her sister, Maud, her brother-in-law, Matt, and their three boys,   including one named Trevor. At one point Maud became disabled and Annie was responsible for all of the housework, and farm work that woman did, in addition to raising the three boys. When Maud died, Matt grieved bitterly, but then married one of his adult art students, Anna. At that point he told Annie that she would have to find “another berth”. Annie wrote to her many relatives, including Bishop Patrick, but all except for Sarah denied her.

As the story opens Annie and Sarah are awaiting the arrival of Trevor's two children, who will be spending the summer with them. Trevor is Annie's nephew, Matt's son. Trevor and his wife are moving from Dublin to London; while they are looking for work and for a house, and setting up housekeeping, they cannot have the two children with them.

Annie and Sarah have few possessions; two of which Annie is proud are her fathers family Bible and his complete works of William Shakespears. Both books are wrapped in dark brown paper, and are”…side by side like a set of twins…' on a dresser in the small country kitchen.

Initially, the arrival of the two children, a six-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy, worried Annie. “I feel a sudden fear that we are too old to guard this little ones…as vigorous as steam engines. But the fear passes and my sense is only of the deepest pleasure, the deepest anticipation.”

Despite Annie's fears, the four get along very well. The children love her and despite their inexperience with farm ways [“Auntie Anne, no human being ever rose at half six.”] become very happy with their country and farm pursuits. They delight in the beautiful surroundings.

The one fly in the ointment is Billy Kerr, the handyman who works for their other cousins and who, sometimes, does work for Annie and Sarah. Annie doesn't like him. “I don't know what it is, but I look at him with accustomed suspicion. He is forty-five and his appearance is his own business. But I don't like the head of him, the scraggy red hair and the black stubble on his chin. I don't like his small stature and the set of clothes on him that might give pause to a tinker before he put them on…But it is the air of the man, the confidence grounded on so little evidence for confidence…” that offends Annie the most.

Sarah is horrified when Billy proposes marriage to Sarah and is accepted. She seeks counsel with her older cousin, Winnie, for whom Billy works. Winnie tells Billy of the conversation and Billy, enraged, goes to Annie and threatens her. “Don't get in my way, Annie…I will skin you, I will take out your guts. I will take something you love and destroy it, that I will.”

After much consideration, Annie tells Sarah that Billy has threatened her. When Billy comes to the farm, Sarah asks if this is true, and says that she cannot marry anyone who threatens Annie, whom she loves like a sister. Billy denies it. Then Sarah asks if he will swear on the Bible. At first he says no but then, realizing that he has no choice, agrees, swearing that he did, in fact, threaten Annie. After he leaves they find that he swore on the volume of Shakespeare's works and not on the Bible. Since the two books looked like twins, both wrapped in dark brown paper, they mixed them up.

Sarah refuses to marry Billy.

It is the end of the summer – harvest time. Trevor returns for his children. The children are happy to see their father but are sad to leave Annie and Sarah.

During the entire story the children are never named.
Best part of story, including ending: I like the story because it is beautifully written, is evocative of nature and beauty, is emotionally honest, and because I care about the characters.

Best scene in story: I like the story because it is beautifully written, is evocative of nature and beauty, is emotionally honest, and because I care about the characters.

Opinion about the main character: I like Annie because she is strong, emotionally, having survived many terrible events in her life, is a very hard worker, and is kind and compassionate.

The review of this Book prepared by Maria Perper a Level 4 Yellow-Headed Blackbird scholar

Chapter Analysis of Annie Dunne

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Poverty, surviving    -   Yes Kind of living:    -   farm poverty Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   farmer Age:    -   60's-90's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Irish


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Ireland Small town?    -   Yes Small town people:    -   nice, like Andy/Opie/Aunt Bee

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Sebastian Barry Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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