Morgan Llywelyn,
(Forge, 2000)

In this sequel to her powerful novel 1916, Morgan Llywelyn revisits the Irish struggle for independence. Although Ned Halloran, the main character in 1916, continues to be an important character in this book, this is the story of the events of 1916-1922 as seen through the eyes of Ned's friend, journalist Henry Mooney. Through him, the reader is treated to a very personal view of the events in the aftermath of the Easter Rising and Ireland's fight for independence.

As a journalist, Henry is privy to a lot of private information, some he isn't even able to print. In 1921, the events become more than just dates and places, and the people involved more than just names. They become very real to the reader as Henry finds himself smack dab in the middle of much of the action. His friendship with Michael Collins is at the forefront of the story, but as Henry tries his best to remain neutral after the treaty is signed, it is clear it is going to be very difficult for him to do so.

There's romance for Henry as well. He falls for widow Ella Rutledge, an Irish native of English ancestry, a Protestant whose family allegiance lies with the British. Will he ever find true happiness with the beautiful, intelligent young woman when her family feels like they do?

I was surprised to see that Llywelyn used Henry as the protagonist instead of Ned, but I applaud her for doing this as in so doing she was able to give a more objective point of view something that might appear very difficult to do.

Even though readers may be aware of many of the historical events, they will likely be stunned at the brutal atrocities in a story where it is sometimes difficult to know with whom to sympathize -- horrible, unspeakable acts of brutality were carried out by both sides. It becomes clear it isn't as simple as Catholics vs. Protestants.

By the time readers finishes both 1916 and 1921, they are certain to have a better understanding of today's Irish "Troubles" -- although understanding doesn't mean condoning the violence.

One can only hope that Llywelyn is planning to continue this series as she has done such a spectacular job; as Henry tells Ned, "History tells what happened; literature tells what it felt like."

- Rambles
written by Kyra Quinn
published 3 May 2003

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