Morgan Llywelyn,
1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State
(Forge, 2003)

1949, the third book in Morgan Llywelyn's series about 20th-century Ireland (I am told there will be two more) is a compelling story of Ireland's continued struggle for complete independence from British rule, and for those who have been anxiously awaiting for this story, I can assure you, you will not be disappointed.

Ursula, a.k.a. Precious, was found wandering the streets of Dublin as a toddler by Ned Halloran, who readers of 1916 and 1921 will remember. Her parentage a question, she was taken in by Ned and his wife, Sile, and raised as their own.

1949 is Ursula's story. It opens in the early days of the Irish Free State and ends with the forming of the Republic in 1949. We follow Ursula as she leaves Ned's family farm in County Clare at the urging of Henry and Ella Mooney (who readers will also remember). Henry wouldn't let Ella use any of her family's money to help support their family but does agree for her to pay for Ursula's education at an exclusive private school in Switzerland.

When Ursula returns to Ireland she secures a job at the new radio station, helping write copy (but never allowed to be on the air herself). Through her eyes we see the continued political struggle in Ireland and her view of world events in the days before the Second World War.

Ursula has vowed never to marry, in large part due to new laws in Ireland against married women working outside the home. Nevertheless, she is very attractive to two men in particular: Finbar Cassidy, an Irish government official whose political views frequently clash with her own, and Lewis Baines, a dashing young English pilot whose conquests of beautiful women have become legendary.

Llywelyn, whose knowledge of Irish politics and history is really unequalled in historical fiction written today, liberally adds historical facts and events to add depth and interest but never detracting from the overall story.

I can't remember when I have looked forward to a book more. Readers of the previous two books will enjoy visits with familiar characters, including Henry and Ella Mooney, Ned Halloran, and Ned's family in County Clare. Llywelyn's stories appeal to a wide variety of readers and my husband and daughter, both of whom have read 1916 and 1921, were fighting over who was going to get to read 1949 when I finished.

- Rambles
written by Kyra Quinn
published 31 May 2003

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