Set in a small rural community in Northern Ireland during the First World War, 'The Largest Baby in Ireland After the Famine' is essentially a love story involving the eponymous character Sarah-Ann O’Malloran and a bachelor farmer Felix Campbell - but it's a love story with a difference. Sarah-Ann is a Catholic mother of 14 children and Felix is a middle-aged Baptist safe in the knowledge that he "knew nothing of women and was convinced there was little good to be known".
In an Ulster coming to terms with the consequences of the Great War and of the increasing unrest and rebellion in the south of Ireland, the relationship between these two characters blossoms despite the circumstances of their separate lives and the reaction of their friends and families to their union.
Author Anne Barnett was awarded the Kerry Ingredients Irish Fiction Award 2001 for this debut and certainly, her descriptive powers wonderfully capture the essence of Northern Ireland during this period. Although religion is fundamental to the plot, Barnett does not allow it to obscure the narration of her unique love story.
Slow moving in parts, the book sometimes brushes over events, but Barnett has a wonderful way of infusing the most poignant scenes with humour and she deals with a time and place in Irish history not too often found in fiction, which makes it a worthwhile read.