Author: Maria Edgeworth
Publication Date: 1800
Review Score: 7/10
Although not a well known novel, Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent is often regarded as the first regional novel in English, the first historical novel, the first Anglo-Irish novel and even the first saga novel.
First published in 1800, Castle Rackrent tells the story of 4 generations of the Rackrent family and their Irish estate, from the wild living Sir Patrick to the debt-ridden Sir Murtagh to the duelling, gambling Sir Kit and finally to Sir Condy, who continues his ancestral foolhardy approach to money and who finally runs the estate into the ground.
The whole story is told by the family’s long serving and incredibly loyal servant, Old Thady, who speaks with a rather unusual vernacular, which once the reader is used to adds a certain charm to the novel.
The tale of the 4 Rackrents and their demise is entertaining but what I found most enjoyable about this novel was the insight into the way of life in Ireland in the late 1700s. Edgeworth had firsthand experience of Anglo-Irish relations and uses this knowledge beautifully to give a great level of depth of detail regarding life in Ireland at this time.
I have read many historic novels based in England, Russia and even India but this was the first historic Irish novel I have read and it was very interesting.
Overall the story wasn’t one that had me on the edge of my seat but given its place in the historic landscape of Irish and world literature I think Castle Rackrent is definitely deserving of its place on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list.