75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lively PhD in Irish History
At the risk of understatement, "The Rebels of Ireland" is an epic novel, a big and bold production akin to the film spectaculars of Cecil B. DeMille's in the 50's. That Rutherfurd's saga of Ireland is spun from a passion for the Emerald Isle is evident, as the sheer length and detail will limit commercial success. But you need not be an aficionado of Irish history to...
Published on April 29, 2006 by Gary Griffiths
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as enjoyable as his other books
I always like Mr. Rutherfurd's books, however I did not find this one as compelling as some of his others. In this book we cover various families in and around Dublin from the late 1500s into the early 20th century. The major theme of this book is quite clearly the fight by many of the Irish people for both religious and political freedom from England...
Published on August 2, 2007 by Jackie M. Bachenberg
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75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lively PhD in Irish History,
At the risk of understatement, "The Rebels of Ireland" is an epic novel, a big and bold production akin to the film spectaculars of Cecil B. DeMille's in the 50's. That Rutherfurd's saga of Ireland is spun from a passion for the Emerald Isle is evident, as the sheer length and detail will limit commercial success. But you need not be an aficionado of Irish history to appreciate and enjoy this grand tale. Picking up where the 2004 "The Princes of Ireland" leaves off, Rutherfurd takes us through generations of bitter religious conflict, wars, treachery, and famine, starting in 1597 and closing in the early 20th century. But it is by no means necessary to read "Princes" before tackling this one - the stories stand alone - and the author provides a helpful 15 page introduction bridging the preceding ten or twelve centuries. But "Rebels" is much richer than a mere historical chronicle. It is a vibrant, living, story of families and emotions, of trusts forged and broken. If history were an funereal, then this is definitely the Irish wake-version. Rutherfurd is often compared to Michener for all the right reasons, but I've found all of Rutherfurd's novels leaving Michener a bit dull and lifeless by comparison. In short, a mighty achievement of well-researched history brought to life in compelling and gripping fiction - a great novel to kick back and savor slowly over the course of a few weeks.
66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I come not to send peace, but a sword.",
This is the most recent volume of Rutherfurd's Dublin Saga, the last of which, The Princes of Ireland, covered over a thousand years of Irish history as lived through the early ancestors of a group of families: the O"Byrne's, descended from the Kings of Ireland; the MacGowan's, craftsmen and merchants; the Harold's and the Doyle's, Viking families who settled and comprised a segment of the farmer and merchant classes; the Walshes, ancestors of Flemish knights who settled in Wales rather than continue on their journey; and the Tidy's, an assortment of craftsmen, merchants and local officials. Although this volume is weighty, Rutherfurd's particular talent in the telling of the past is the humanizing of his characters as they evolve, their fortunes changing with the centuries, Ireland transformed by the ripe opportunities offered to the new English settlers and the problems that ensue from the establishment of English colonies on Irish soil.
Historical fiction is at its most effective when the personal narratives of the characters offer insights into a country at a time when families' divided loyalties are caught in the juggernaut of a centuries-long conquest of Ireland by the English and the concomitant religious turmoil that ensues when Protestantism and Catholicism collide. The beleaguered island is not only the site of the great historical events portrayed in this novel, but also the smaller daily dramas of individuals shaped by the passions of their beliefs and a quest for freedom from oppression and religious tolerance at any cost. Sprinkled among the family dramas and political conflicts, are the more intimate details of men and women who want prosperity and security for their families, drawn by fate into the religious and political dynamic that so defines much of Irish history. These narratives are made memorable by the personal trials and tribulations of each family swept up in the turbulence of history.
In this volume, from the late 16th to the early 20th centuries, Ireland teems with ambitions, great and small, cataclysmic events and rebellions that redefine the face of a country whose great soul is the source of inspiration and myth, a vast mosaic of individuals who endure the inevitable, the deep scars of religious wars, the fortunes of peasant and aristocracy, medieval merchants and rebel sympathizers, anti-catholic penal laws, the great famine, intrusive governments, foreign invasions and a culture of gifted writers. The Rebels of Ireland is a remarkable achievement, sifting through the bounty and detritus of history, the result an engaging recreation of lives bound by grief and blood, political intrigues and the enduring spirit of patriotism. Luan Gaines/ 2006.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ambitious effort to encapsulate over 2,000 years of one of the world's most colorful and contentious countries,
The history of Ireland is one of literature's favorite themes. No country lends itself more to tales of mysticism, romance, heraldry, and fierce battles over land and ideology than this small, rocky island in the north Atlantic. The first thousand years of its turbulent history were covered in Edward Rutherfurd's THE PRINCES OF IRELAND, where he chronicled the mystical and tumultuous saga of the Irish High Kings, and the craftsmen, farmers and servant families who served them.
In THE REBELS OF IRELAND, Rutherfurd continues his sweeping saga, centered in Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains. The novel picks up after the ill-fated Irish Revolt of 1534, when British forces vanquished the ill-equipped Irish. The land grab begins as English yeomen are brought in to remove and replace Irishmen on the centuries-old land holds. Cromwell's cataclysmic invasion of minds and souls in the mid-1600s sets the stage for the religious conflicts that have shrouded Ireland's past and predestined its dark future in waves of savage war and tenuous peace, which continue into modern times.
In REBELS, the heirs to the High Kings and numerous other heirs of the early characters in PRINCES are followed through the struggles beginning in 1597 through the early 20th century. Rutherfurd pays particular attention to the era surrounding the infamous potato famine in the mid-1800s, resulting in the starvation of more than a million people and ultimately in the Irish Diaspora, which led several millions of Irish emigrants to the Continent, America and Australia.
An overarching theme is the role played in the subjugation by the British, not only in their attempt to grab Ireland's land, but to annihilate the Irish Catholics through literal starvation of the body as well as their minds. So long as they remained Catholic, they were denied the vote, not allowed schooling past early elementary school, and could not hold title to lands. Only through conversion to the Church of Ireland or Presbyterianism would they be allowed to elevate their position in life. This subjugation guaranteed that they would never hold more than menial jobs and be forever under the brutal heel of the aristocracy and British Ascendancy. The treatment paralleled the American conduct toward the American Indians and blacks of a similar period.
Rutherfurd's ambitious effort to encapsulate (if that is a proper description of two weighty novels encompassing over 2,000 years and nearly as many pages) one of the world's most colorful and contentious countries succeeds in the same way as his prior novels. As in SARUM, LONDON and THE FOREST, he uses a generational saga to focus his historical precision light on one place over many centuries.
For historical novel buffs, THE REBELS OF IRELAND weaves together the threads of the complicated tapestry that is Ireland into a more complete illustration. The complexities of the societal upheavals are clearly shown through the lives of the well-drawn characters through the generations. The novel ends with the rise of Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army in the 1920s.
The regrettable conflicts of the mid-20th century and the remarkable gains of the past two decades continue to fascinate historians. Perhaps it is too early to commit the modern history-making events in Ireland to anything but the front pages and the evening news. Nothing will relegate it to the dustbins of history, however. Some historian, be it Rutherfurd or another scribe, will surely look upon these two books as touchstones for presenting the last century when enough time has passed to see it in perspective.
--- Reviewed by Roz Shea
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Centuries of Ireland,
Rutherfurd's Rebels of Ireland completes his two-volume epic saga of Ireland. The emerald isle posed a challenge for Rutherfurd, who normally sweeps across thousands of years in a single volume. The Rebels of Ireland is unusual in that it commences quite late in the day - 1534 and continues through Irish independence in 1922 - a mere four centuries!
In his standard style Rutherfurd follows the fortunes and machinations of several families through Irish history. We meet Oliver Cromwell, Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, Daniel O'Connell, and Charles Stewart Parnell. Rutherfurd takes us through the Flight of the Earls, the Battle of the Boyne, the skedaddling of the Wild Geese, the Famine, and the Great Migration to America. Rutherfurd gives a fascinating description of how some families, especially those with aspirations, would more or less choose or at least encourage one son to convert to Protestantism so as to have one foot in each camp - in particular one foot in the official church of the elite.
The Rebels of Ireland necessarily lacks the full epic scope of Rutherfurd's other works and feels a bit cramped as a result. Not at the top of my personal Rutherfurd favorites, but well worth the read.
Recommended for fans of Rutherfurd or any reader with an interest in Irish history. By the way, if you enjoy historical novels about Ireland also try the excellent "IRELAND: A Novel" by Frank Delaney.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Rutherfurd to date,
I've read all of Edward Rutherfurd's work and have enjoyed it all. However, I'm convinced that Rebels of Ireland is his best effort to date. In trying to ascertain why this may be, I have come to the conclusion that the condensed time frame captured by the book (around 300 years as opposed to the thousands of years in his previous efforts) may be the key.
Many of Rutherfurd's earlier books were in the mold of Michener, and while Rutherfurd is good, in my opinion, he is not the equal of Michener in taking a story from prehistory to the present day. Especially where Rutherford tries to tie together family units through centuries, the result is often confusing and hard to follow.
However, in the case of Rebels of Ireland, Rutherfurd is given the time necessary to develop characters and story lines to extents not available in his earlier works. The subject matter is engrossing, especially to one who has actually travelled to and toured the Emerald Isle. The chapter on the potato famine of the 1800s was heart breaking in its vivid portrayal of mass starvation through the eyes of a poor Irish family in County Clare.
Religious turmoil and English domination are certainly the cornerstones of Irish history through the period canvassed by the novel. For those not familiar with contemporary Irish history, this book would be an excellent primer. If you enjoy this novel, I would recommend Russka, another novel by Rutherfurd dealing with Russian peasantry. Rutherfurd's other work (Sarum, London, The Forest and Princes of Ireland), while entertaining and certainly worthwhile, are not the equal of the other two.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read that makes the chain of events easy to follow,
I have read a lot of historical fiction regarding Ireland. I have also read most of Edward Rutherford's books. What I like about Rebels of Ireland, as with his other books, is that he is able to personalize history, making it easier to follow, while at the same time not getting bogged down in emotionalism. For instance, at certain points in history, you know bad things are going to happen. As you get to that point in the book, you brace yourself for something you know is not going to be pleasant. However, Rutherford is able to convey the severity of whatever the situation is, while at the same time viewing it somewhat objectively in the wider historical view and also presenting several sides of the story. All the same, the story at the end of the famine chapter did make me cry - so it's not too terribly dry :).
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It's better to face a harsh reality than to delude oneself.",
This review is from: The Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga (Rutherfurd, Edward) (Audio Cassette)
This book continues the Dublin Saga.The first book "Princes of Ireland" was spellbounding (see my review of June 12,2005)and this latest book is even better.If you've read any of the other reviews ,you'll already know what it is about;so I won't repeat.
Most people believe history is dull;but I believe that is because of the way it has been presented over the years.Nothing can be more interesting than the past because it shows mankind's hopes,struggles,customs,loves,hates,disappointments and what has gone on before and makes us what we are.
By presenting history through the people that lived through it,we get a much better understanding of it.In other words it brings history to life.
The author takes on a momumental task of condensing 400 years of Irish history into 863 pages;and he does it so well that the reader is immensely more knowledgeable about what happened in Ireland;and what's more important,what happened to the people and why,that a real understanding is obtained.Imagine,page after page,and not a place where it got dull.
I have read a lot of Irish history ,biographies and novels;but none have covered this period as clearly and concisely as Rutherfurd has done.
The big question is;will he give us another book covering the period since the 1920's to the present.I sure hope so.
I would imagine that most people who have read these two books would agree that a mini-series would be a huge success. I predict it would be on par with that great one "Roots."
A big book,but well worth the read.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect,
This is my third Rutherford novel. I usually read one before I go visiting-London before my visit there, Princes of Ireland before my October visit and now the Rebels because I will be returning to Ireland soon.
This is really the best of the three-his characters are engaging and the stories interwoven with history are enlightening in Rutherford's way.
If I have a criticism I think (and I felt this in the conclusion of London)the last chapter seems so hurried. As if he were trying to tie it too quickly and too efficently. I guess I wanted more-perhaps there would have been enough for another book. I don't know. I just think the Easter uprising and the events that followed should have been given more. Nevertheless a very good(I was so interested I finished it in 2 days)read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Irish Tale Wonderfully Told,
Edward Rutherford has outdone himself. After I read this book, I read his "London" and whereas it is a beautifully written book, it didn't really compare to "The Rebels of Ireland". Rutherford captures the culture that is uniquely Irish and objectively tell us what it was like to be Irish under English domination. England has never understood the beauty of the Irish culture. It is beyond them and that is sad for them. We spent some time wandering through the Wicklow mountains and, as I read, I was taken back to our time there. It is a wondrous place. I also read Rutherford's "Princes of Ireland", an incredible book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Rutherford is truly similar to James Michener, a long time favorite of mine in the area of historical fiction. Both are marvelous story tellers and both captured the cultures of which they wrote by living in those cultures and doing extensive and accurate research. In particular, I appreciated Rutherford's handling of "The Famine" showing that there was not a great famine in Ireland, but rather the starvation of the Irish people. There was plenty of food, but it was shipped to England and elsewhere as the Irish nobility and England let them starve. There is so much fiction about Ireland. It is wonderful to read an accurate and fair account of parts of the history of the so special island which is filled by a warm, loving, and generous culture that is built on family and neighbors, a relational culture that puts people ahead of wealth and never invaded another country. How many countries, in history, can say that. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a real interest in understanding the uniqueness of Ireland and its people.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as enjoyable as his other books,
This review is from: The Rebels of Ireland (Hardcover)
I always like Mr. Rutherfurd's books, however I did not find this one as compelling as some of his others. In this book we cover various families in and around Dublin from the late 1500s into the early 20th century. The major theme of this book is quite clearly the fight by many of the Irish people for both religious and political freedom from England.
Although not as entertaining as his other books, it is quite insightful, giving looks into the history and causes of Ireland's struggle with England. It's also quite educational and a real lesson in history repeating itself. An example of this is the chapter on the potato famine. For those of us who in modern day are quite skeptical of "free trade" as practiced by the US, some of the reasons given for the potato famine being worse than they might have been are shockingly similar to our current free trade philosophies. The British government was not willing to step in and subsidize or control the price of grain, saying that the market would take its natural course. The results were that when that same government needed to buy grain to try and feed the hungry, the price of grain had skyrocketed because of the free market and the grain growers knowing that they could charge pretty much whatever they wanted.
This is not a light read. It's full of history, concepts and opinions. So don't take it on unless you're looking for an education.
My star ratings:
One star - couldn't finish the book
Two stars - read the book, but did a lot of skipping or scanning. Wouldn't add the book to my permanent collection or search out other books by the author
Three stars - enjoyable read. Wouldn't add the book to my permanent collection. Would judge other books by the author individually.
Four stars - Liked the book. Would keep the book or would look for others by the same author.
Five stars - One of my all time favorites. Will get a copy in hardback to keep and will actively search out others by the same author.
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The Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd (Paperback - February 27, 2007)