Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 1976
Pages: 751
Challenges:
Decades 08 #12 (1970’s), Chunkster Challenge 2008 #4

I love big fat chunky historical fiction. I love books with maps. I love books that inspire me to head to google to start looking up more information about the time period or place described in the book. This book was all those things and more and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This has been hanging around on the fringes of my TBR list for ages. I think it finally jumped to the more active section of that list when I read the review at Framed and Booked last year. Written in the 1970’s when the hostilities in Northern Ireland were all over the news, this book takes a step back nearly a century from that time to look at another phase in the life cycle of that longstanding conflict.

Beginning in 1885 young Conor Larkin and his friend Seamus O’Neill are introduced as young boys living in a small town of Ballyutogue. Even then, the town is divided into their poor Catholic section and the more affluent Protestant section. The book follows many characters, but the primary protagonist is Conor Larkin. The conflicts between the Irish people and the British, the Protestants and the Catholics, the aristocracy and the working class all form the background and stage of this saga. Conor and Seamus hear the history of their families from the local storyteller, then go on to become part of the fight for freedom from British control.

The story follows Conor and two other families (one of British aristocrats and one of Scottish Protestants) as they interact and work both with and against each other to pursue their conflicting goals for Ireland. This book held my attention and kept me heading to my computer to look up more background information.

Obviously the violence in Ireland outlasts the ending of this book, but it gives an interesting look at some of the history of the conflict and helped me understand some of the background to what I saw on the news from Belfast when I was growing up.