Under the Hawthorn Tree (novel)

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Under the Hawthorn Tree is a children's historical novel by Marita Conlon-McKenna, the first in her Children of the Famine trilogy set at the time of the Great Famine in Ireland. It was published by the O'Brien Press in May 1990.[1] It was adapted for television in 1999.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel tells the story of three siblings, Eily, Michael and Peggy O'Driscoll, who live in a small cottage in rural Ireland. At the opening of the book, in 1845, blight strikes the family potato plot, and shows the beginning of the Great Famine. Their baby sister Bridget dies of sickness and is buried under the hawthorn tree in the garden: in Irish mythology, the hawthorn is linked with the otherworld. Their father goes to find work fixing the roads, and when he does not return for several weeks, their mother leaves to find him. After some time, the children accept that both are dead and take an arduous journey to their great-aunts'(nano and lana) home hundreds of miles away, after facing eviction from their landlord.


The book, originally written in English, has been translated into French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Italian, Japanese, Irish, Persian, Malay and Arabic.[citation needed]

Television adaptation[edit]

Under the Hawthorn Tree has been filmed for Channel 4, and screened as a four-part series in March 1999.[2]


  • Wildflower Girl, the second part of the trilogy, in which Peggy goes to America[3]
  • Fields of Home, the third part of the trilogy, which follows Michael back home in Ireland.[4]