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The Year of the French (New York Review Books Classics) Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Length: 548 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...a circumspect and grippingly authentic account that stands as a stark warning against the romanticisation of torrid times.  The result is a classic of historical fiction” —The Times (London)

“I recall the excitement when this book was published in the late 1970's - and then discovered (not always the case) that the book merited it. Flanagan, an American history professor of Irish descent, pulled off a substantial coup in that he brought a historian's training to bear upon a romantic moment, the period when the French landed in the west of Ireland in 1798 and all Ireland thought liberation was at hand. His research never lies around the novel in pools, it stains the entire fabric, so that when his character's point of view is emerging from a dispossessed farmer's clay hovel or a small town merchant's table in the local hotel, we smell them - their clothes, their breath and (this is Ireland after all) their politics.” —Frank Delaney, The Guardian

"A masterwork of historical fiction." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The book's wide-ranging scope and erudition are reminiscent of Tolstoy." — Chicago Tribune

"This deserves every major literary prize." — Publishers Weekly

“In his prodigious first novel, Thomas Flanagan grants this historic episode a new and panoramic life....[a] thoughtful, graceful elegy.” — Mayo Mohs, Time

“Such a brutal and pathetic story would alone have sufficed to make this book absorbing, but Flanagan has much more on his mind. He means to create not only a plausible sense of place and character, and an accurate account of evens, but to recreate, from barroom to manor hall, the entire intellectual and emotional climate of the time....not only a serious book...but a distinguished one as well.” — Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

“a rich and complex narrative...[an] extraordinary achievement" — George Garrett, The New York Times

"I haven't so enjoyed a historical novel since The Charterhouse of Parma and War and Peace." — John Leonard, The New York Times.

“handsomely written...[a] splendid novel.” — Denis Donogue, The New York Review of Books

"Thomas Flanagan was one of irish-America's—one of the literary world's—great treasures. he wrote in flowing, baroque sentences that defied literary conventions born of minimalism and the modern attention span. His novels had texture and context, and were—astonishingly—critical successes and popular bestsellers." —Terry Golway, The Irish Echo

About the Author

Thomas Flanagan (1923–2002), the grandson of Irish immigrants, grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he ran the school newspaper with his friend Truman Capote. Flanagan attended Amherst College (with a two-year hiatus to serve in the Pacific Fleet) and earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, where he studied under Lionel Trilling while also writing stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. In 1959, he published an important scholarly work, The Irish Novelists, 1800 to 1850, and the next year he moved to Berkeley, where he was to teach English and Irish literature at the University of California for many years. In 1978 he took up a post at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, from which he retired in 1996. Flanagan and his wife Jean made annual trips to Ireland, where he struck up friendships with many writers, including Benedict Kiely and Seamus Heaney, whom he in turn helped bring to the United States. His intimate knowledge of Ireland’s history and literature also helped to inspire his trilogy of historical novels, starting with The Year of the French (1979, winner of the National Critics’ Circle award for fiction, reissued by NYRB Classics in 2004) and continuing with The Tenants of Time (1988) and The End of the Hunt (1994). He is also the author of There You Are: Writings on Irish and American Literature and History (2004). Flanagan was a frequent contributor to many publications, including The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and The Kenyon Review

Seamus Deane, formerly Professor of English and American Literature at University College, Dublin, is now Keough Professor of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Among his books are Selected Poems, Celtic Revivals, Strange Country: Ireland and Modernity, and the novel Reading in the Dark. He was General Editor of the three-volume Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3924 KB
  • Print Length: 548 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; New Ed edition (November 14, 2012)
  • Publication Date: November 14, 2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0092FQVIO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,192 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone has a right to be suspicious of claims that appear extravagant, but, upon reflection, I genuinely believe this is the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century (I suppose we should count "Vanity Fair" and "A Tale of Two Cities" as historicals, but none of poor, old Walter Scott's works compete). Its foreign language competition is limited to a handful of books, From "War and Peace," "The Leopard," and "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," to "Am Himmel wie auf Erden," "Vor dem Sturm," and "I Promessi Sposi." Thomas Flanagan is simply a brilliant writer--lucid, thoroughly-engaging, controlled and masterful. His prose is flawless. Except for "The Leopard," I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world. The weather and the feel of chilled mud, the prejudice of blood, the nuances of the social order and the confusion of military operations, the errors and casual oversights that shape lives, and the interplay of great events and individual tragedies are all so perfectly interwoven and gracefully presented that the reader forgets this is only a novel and enters another reality. Of course, all this will sound like hyperbole to those who have not yet read this book--but once you have read it, you will find it haunts you for a long time. I've given several copies to cherished friends, as I also have done with Penelope Fitzgerald's "The Blue Flower" (which might have been a competitor for "best historical," were it not such a transcendent book that it won't be characterized by any genre). This is a wonderful book--please read it and help keep it in print.
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Format: Paperback
This is writing at its finest, making the drama of history come alive through characters we relate to and care about. I was swept along from the first paragraph, held captive by beautiful language and vivid detail. As has been said of the Irish, "There's no cause like a lost cause". Writing like this makes one of history's saddest stories live on in the hearts of anyone lucky enough to come across it. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
The first book in Flanagan's panaromic sweep of Irish history. (see "Tenants of Time" & "The End of the Hunt")
Well written with characters the reader cares about set against the historical back drop of Wolfe Tone's failed 1789 rebellion against the English.
Compelling, a must read! Once you've read one of Flanagan's books you find yourself wishing he had written more, or started writing earlier.
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Format: Paperback
I was compelled to write this review mostly because of the previous commentary. A lullaby? Hardly. Vivid and stirring, and not at all a textbook tome. As for the supposedly "homogenized" characterizations, I disagree completely. Owen McCarthy, as befitting of a poet, is a poetical character. His reflections on his people and his land are some of the most moving I have read in any novel in ages. The book brings to life not only events -- ugly battles between cannons and pikemen, in all their gore and horror -- but also the tenor of the times, the motivations of all sides in this epic confrontation. And while Flanagan does tend to belabor some of his points and themes in the latter third (which a keener editing eye should have taken care of; this was a debut novel), a reader emerges feeling that every side in this fight had good and bad sides, high motives and base motives. And, having seen firsthand the way that modern wars of revolt and insurrection quickly turn into butchery on all sides, Flanagan's illustration of the conduct and motivations of the warring parties in 1798 Ireland seems as dead-on an explanation of such events as you'll find anywhere.
A superb read, astonishing in its breadth and depth and its lyrical skill.
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Format: Paperback
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "For the great Gaels of Ireland/Are the men that God made mad,/For all their wars are merry/And all their songs are sad." This book captures that spirit admirably. The author has a sure grasp of historical fact, both of political events and of the texture of daily life (the smell of seaweed, the color of whisky). And he writes beautifully, with an ear for dialogue and an eye for the telling detail. But the real power of the book lies in the characters he creates, vividly realized and memorable (and this is true of both major and minor characters); the reader grows to care about them and feels genuine sorrow at their misfortunes. In the process, too, one learns a surprising amount of history. By the end of the book, I felt I understood the complex relationship between the British and the Irish far better than ever before -- and I'm part Irish, from a County Mayo family, and thought I knew it all already. I highly recommend this book.
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I was born in Ireland, of an Irish mother and an English father, but this book has taught me more about my country and the tangled relations between my peoples than I ever knew before. By tracing the events that took place in a single year (1798) in a remote part of the country (County Mayo on the West coast), Thomas Flanagan pulls together threads stretching back many centuries, embracing all classes of Irish society, threads still tangled in the fighting in Northern Ireland in 1979 when the book was published, almost two centuries later.

The Year of the French commemorates the landing of a small expeditionary force sent out by revolutionary France to foment further revolution in Ireland against their arch-enemies, the English. The fleet, three vessels carrying a mere thousand men, had not been intended for such a remote spot, but the ships were forced into harbor by contrary winds. Under the command of the extraordinary General Humbert, however, the soliders achieved some striking early successes, rallying a substantial number of the populace to their side. But the promised reinforcements from France do not arrive, and it is only a matter of time before the British can regroup and bring their greater strength to bear. As history knows, the Great Irish Rebellion of 1798 was doomed to failure. But Flanagan also shows how the brutal British reprisals further sowed the seeds of rancor that would blossom in successful revolution over a century later.

It would be easy to see the discord in Ireland, then as in the quite recent past, as being a struggle between English and Irish, landowner and peasant, Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor.
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