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O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare
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O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare

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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  647 ratings  ·  72 reviews
A story of a young couple who abandoned their careers in New York and moved to Ireland tells of their idyllic life in a cottage, surrounded by the beauty and character of the land of their ancestors.
Paperback, 233 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Soho Press (first published September 1987)
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  647 ratings  ·  72 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, memoirs
”Gusts of wind rustled in the bedroom’s old chimney, and with our heads beside it, we vaguely thought of birds or bats descending in the night. The ceiling above us, Chris said, seemed to breathe and sigh and she heard soft shuffling sounds somewhere in the rafters. The sense of disturbing ancestral ghosts snuggled us closer together. Don’t go to sleep until I’m asleep, she said to me. And so, alert and listening to every sound, from the thrashing branches of the sycamore trees to the distant be ...more
Cheri
4.5 Stars

”In the town of Scariff the sun was shining in the sky
When Willie Clancy played his pipes and the tears welled in my eyes
Many years have passed and gone since the times we had there
But my heart's tonight in Ireland in the sweet County Clare”

-- My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland (In the Sweet County Clare) – Andy Irvine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdVZ0...

”It is now nearly thirty years since Chris and I arrived in Kiltumper, nearly thirty years since her father allowed us to move into h
...more
Amy
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: me
This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. However, throughout this book, I appreciated the honesty and real feelings that Niall and Christine shared about the culture shock, loneliness, daily struggle to eek out a living on a old, run down farm and cottage. The shear ...more
Stacy
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked the book. It made me want to go there myself and absorb the culture. Good stuff.
Colleen
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland
O Come Ye Back to Ireland by Niall Williams and Christine Breen is an engaging memoir about the couple's first year in County Clare, Ireland. They moved to the quiet, rural setting from their busy, urban lives in New York City. The book recounts their losses and their revelations during the year and everything the learned along the way. It almost made me pick up and move to my own little oasis in Ireland . . . almost.

Christine Breen is the American born daughter of Irish parents attending Univer
...more
Lexish
Jul 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was almost escapist for me. =) Though it sounds very cliche to say that this is a book about a couple from Manhattan who return to their families' native rural region in Ireland, it's so much quieter and nicer than that. The picture the authors paint is certainly not all rosy--trying to cut the sod, keep the farm going, raise animals, and in general keep life going turns out to be much more in depth than the couple ever thought. It was interesting to see how the authors' viewpoint had ...more
Autumn
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. A couple leaves their jobs in NYC and moves to Ireland in the 80's. We're talking rural Ireland. Farms, burning peat to heat the house, some people with no electricity or phones... It's a memoir, not a novel. I love books about Ireland. I love that people there tell stories as a national pastime. There's a lyricism and beauty and can you tell I want to move there? Anyway, it's great to read a first hand account of outsiders who find a place where things move more slowly, ...more
Katie
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
A gentle, tender kind of narrative. Memoir of the authors (husband and wife each write parts) who left NYC in 1985ish to take up the rural life of County Clare, Ireland. Painters/writers, novice farmers, they chronicle their struggles and adjustments honestly and sweetly. Oh the endless rain, the ruined garden, the amusing tale of Niall (husband) attending "farmer school." I really liked it.
Lia
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was interesting to read about the differences between a hectic life in 1980s New York and the rustic ways of coastal County Clare. The life of the two authors is what I imagined my life would be like when I graduated high school -I'll meet some artistic Irishman who takes me back to his home country and I spend the rest of my life raising sheep and growing flowers.
Swgreen
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A must read for those interested in Ireland. A very personal, well written part one of a trilogy of Niall and Christine's return to her family's home and landscape. Having travelled to Ireland many times over the past 30 years, I am still learning from this book.
Heather Adkins
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland, favorites
Phenomenal writing. As someone who yearns to live in Ireland, this story of an American/Irish couple moving to County Clare and learning to farm was moving.
Rebecca
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved every book they wrote in this charming series of a couple that moved from New York to Ireland and the accompanying social/culture shocks. Funny and very entertaining.
Glen
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A charming and simple read about an Irish-American (or is it American-Irish?) couple who decide to drop out of the New York rat race in favor of the green acres of County Clare. The details about the hardships, idiosyncrasies, and blessings of life in the west of Ireland are lovingly detailed and candidly related. The high point for me was reading of their participation in a local drama competition in which they and their neighbors successfully staged one of Synge's more difficult plays. That an ...more
Melody
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
A memoir of life in rural western Ireland in the mid 1980s, this book is a snapshot of a country on the brink of emerging into modern society. The authors were particularly suited to capturing the lore, as well as the lovely people and the difficulty of a small farmer's struggle to wrest a living from the land. Their Irish heritage gave them a love and dedication to a fast-disappearing way of life, while their former lives in NYC gave them a perspective in high contrast to their new adventure, a ...more
Elizabeth Marcus
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading the story of Niall Williams and Christine Breen, who left their jobs and home in NYC to live in rural Ireland. Though they both had relatives in the country and had visited there several times, it was extremely difficult getting used to the old house into which they moved, the way things ran, growing crops, cutting turf and farming, among other tasks. I got a real sense of the region's people and history, and knowing what true Irish hospitality meant in tough times. The book was ...more
Julie O'Leary
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This recollection of a young Irish American moving to rural western Ireland in the mid 1980's (pre-internet days :-)) & try to build a new self sustainable life while becoming fully immersed in their traditional western Irish community was written with humor & a bit of self-deprecating wit. This was a real quick heartwarming read -very identifiable to me as an American living in a foreign country!
Jina Howell-Forbes
A very slow moving story. I had a hard time finishing it. I like stories about the difficulties of rural farm life, and stories about Ireland are usually very special. But I found no reason to like these characters, hard as I tried. I wanted to care what happened to them. I did. But the true-life story was just not interesting. It just plodded on and on.
Sherri
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
This book was destined for a 1 or 2 star rating for the first half. I felt as if I were reading a book written by a couple of very spoiled, whiny kids. Not what I wanted out of it. It picked up tremendously for the second half. I would almost recommend it...almost.
Jacqueline
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really charming book, an insight into the struggle of living off the land in County Clare. Having recently read (and hugely enjoyed) Niall's book "History of the Rain", I could now see from where this was drawn. Would highly recommend.
Kathy Kayser-konig
Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Thus was very enjoyable and a must-read for anyone wanting to know more about the REAL Ireland. A bit dated but still a lovely adventure.
Heather
Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A book about my dream...leaving it all behind to start a farm in Ireland!
Mary
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could feel the rain, smell the peat, and sense the friendliness of western Ireland before modernization. I loved the artistic collaboration between and Niall and Chris, the husband and wife co-authors. They were honest with the hardships of the weather, farming and loneliness of their transition to Irish life.
Camille24
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
****4.5/5 stars****

This book deserves its comparison to Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. It is warm, heartfelt, funny and sad by turns. In 1985, Niall Williams and Christine Breen decide to quit their jobs in Manhattan and move to rural western Ireland. They purchase the five-room cottage that Christine's father's cousin just moved out of and decide to try their hand at farming. They hope to find greater meaning in their lives by living off the land. Also, they hope that the lack of a formal
...more
John Mulholland
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting from the viewpoint of life in rural Ireland
Robert
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Not as I expected. More on the couple who moved to Ireland than on the characters in the community
Bit disappointing
Maura
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Having visited the west of Ireland, I enjoyed reading about day to day life there as experienced by a couple of newcomers. This book was written about 20 years before my visit, so the standard of living in much of the West has changed markedly. But I remember our guide telling us as we drove through the mountains on the Ring of Kerry that the area was the last in the country to get electric service, and it hadn't been so many years before. In the book, the authors manage to avoid much of the rom ...more
Della O'Shea
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Read this in a couple of days. Loved the first-person narrative chapters by Niall, inter-laced with journal entries written by Christine.
I cared about them and the neighbors, family members and village folk depicted in the first year of their dream of quitting the New York
rat-race and settling into the Breen cottage in Co. Clare, West Ireland, Christine's ancestral home. I'm delighted to see that subsequent
books follow the story forward through adoption of two children and travel around the coun
...more
Maureen
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I loved this book more than I can describe. Perhaps because I've come to a point in life in which I desperately want a quiet, simple and pastoral life. I understand why Niall and Christine left New York and moved to County Clare in search of a life true to themselves and their spirits. They never glossed over the difficulties they encountered in their adopted County Clare. Yet, it is obvious they were a team and completely invested in what they were doing and in the life they ...more
Roberta
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I read As it is in Heaven, a novel by Niall Williams, a few years back and really loved his story and his style. This book is a memoir of Niall and his wife moving to a farm in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. It's real, not sugar coated in any way, detailing their struggles and occasional despair. The timing was terrible. They arrived during one of the wettest years ever and that is saying a lot in Ireland. The conditions were primitivie. What shines out for me is the values they brou ...more
Charlene
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was such fun to read, partially because I'm planning a trip to Ireland soon. I do like memoirs, particularly ones that deal with "ordinary life" albeit in an unusual place (a stone cottage in western, very rural Ireland). Authors are talented and come across as very likeable and so are the Irish neighbors in the book. Hardships are not glossed over (neither is the weather!) but there's happiness in the book as the young authors establish their lives away from their previous home in New York ...more
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Niall Williams studied English and French Literature at University College Dublin and graduated with a MA in Modern American Literature. He moved to New York in 1980 where he married Christine Breen. His first job in New York was opening boxes of books in Fox and Sutherland's Bookshop in Mount Kisco. He later worked as a copywriter for Avon Books in New York City before leaving America with Chris ...more