- Series: Irish Century (Book 3)
- Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Forge Books (March 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812570804
- ISBN-13: 978-0812570809
- Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.3 x 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,417,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State (Irish Century) Mass Market Paperback – March 2, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
During the period covered in Llywelyn's third magisterial novel (after 1916 and 1921) in her Irish Century series, from the island's division into the primarily Catholic Free State and the mostly Protestant Northern Ireland in the early 1920s to the creation of the Irish Republic in 1949, the outside world changes much while Ireland changes painfully little. Avoiding such stock Irish themes as the "curse" of drink and emigration to foreign and unwelcoming shores, the story focuses on the indomitable Ursula Halloran (adopted daughter of rebel Ned Halloran, introduced in 1916), a young woman who first works for the Irish radio service and later the League of Nations. The unwed Ursula discovers how oppressive the new Catholic state can be when she becomes pregnant and must flee the country. Eventually, Ursula must choose between the two men in her life, one an Irish civil servant, the other an English pilot. The melodrama is mitigated by the poignancy of her forever losing the man she truly loves. Moving as well is Ursula's aiding a Jewish man who brought his children to Britain for safety on the eve of WWII and is returning to Nazi Germany, where his wife still resides. Well-realized characters and a vivid history make for richly gratifying reading.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Combining fact with fiction, Llywelyn continues her riveting multivolume novel of Ireland in the twentieth century. As in Volumes 1916 (1998) and 1921 ( 2001), she utilizes the tortured history of a nation torn apart by civil war as the dramatic backdrop for another tale of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. After participating in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and witnessing the partition of his beloved Ireland into two states in 1921, committed republican Ned Halloran has passed on his passion for the cause to his adopted daughter, Ursula. Ursula forges an independent life for herself as a radio broadcaster. She becomes personally involved with two men, neither of whom she wants to marry. After she becomes pregnant, Ursula is forced to leave an Ireland where unwed motherhood is unthinkable. Later she returns to her native country and sees Ireland usher in a new era as the Republic is formally inaugurated in 1949. Llywelyn's great strength is her ability to communicate sweeping historical events through the eyes of both passive bystanders and active participants. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
And that encapsulates the problem I had with the book. The fictional characters that carried the first two books, 1916 and 1922, (Ned Halloran, his wife Sile, his friend and Ursula's 'uncle' Henry Mooney, his sister Kathleen) are either gone or, for most of the book, offstage except for scattered segments, and the new characters that are introduced are a strong presence for a chapter or two at most. The nonfictional element is not as strong either because there are not the convulsions in Ireland that swept the first two books along (the Easter Rising for 1916 and the Anglo-Irish conflict and Civil War for 1921). Because Ursula is not as close to key events and those who are shaping them as Ned was in 1916 or Henry in 1921, the nonfictional characters are not as strong a presence in the book. This leaves Ursula to mostly carry the story by herself, and while she is a strong and appealing character, and interesting things happen to her, that's a lot to ask of one character, especially in a chronicle like this.
It also makes Llywelyn's habit of interrupting the story for written newsreels even more disconcerting. Her documentation of facts, with bibliography and footnotes, continues, but even here there are lapses. (To wit: Francisco Franco was not army chief of staff in Spain and did not lead the right-wing opposition after the Popular Front election victory of February 1936; he was shunted off to the Canary Islands and stayed on the sidelines hedging his bets until just before the military revolt broke out in July. Later in the book, Llywellyn speaks of Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson visiting London at Christmas 1940; this would have been a big surprise to William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was actually Canada's PM at the time,)
Llywelyn is a fine writer as always, and the book ends well. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure someone would have who had not read the first two volumes and/or had an interest in 20th century Irish history. (I would have given the book 3 1/2 stars had the software I am using allowed it.)
The lead character, Ursula, is consistent and well developed. She carries the book. Her strength is apparent, and, yet, her concessions at the end keep her human. Ned is a wonderful warrior, and his role is imaginative yet real at the same time. The Irish? Well, they wear, though uneasily, the Norman Yoke, sometimes with patience and sometimes in full possession of their anarchic tendencies.
The mythology of the book was the Manichean version of WWII,--- just poor history. I proffer: Hitler`s a bad, bad even evil guy, Stalin's glossed over, Roosevelt and Churchill are heroes, America was isolationist, Ireland was neutral and The League of Nations with teeth could have saved us from Europe's second Civil War of the last century. Well, one doesn't have to be a surly revisionist to question these emphases. Yes, it's a synthesis, just not a historically accurate one. You can't discuss the evil of WWII without highlighting the evil inherent in the provocation and "peace" of WWI.
The Irish history part of the book was thought provoking. However, at the end, I was left wondering: does the word "republican" have a definition? Just as an oath of allegiance negates a "free state", a centralized somewhat theocratic state negates a "republic". And the sacral IRA are socialists, not republicans of any stripe. They don't nearly subscribe to the political philosophy that has created The Celtic Tiger.
But bad history does not a bad book make. Llywelyn has a terrific pen, and she isn't the first author to write a valuable book with glaring errors. (Eric Foner has made a career of it.) I've read her 1916, and I am reading 1999; I like to think I value my time. She's got a lot to say, and learning is more often than not--- uncomfortable.
Finally, even though I'm in the John Stuart Mill camp of Women's Liberation, I tolerated much of the Amazon-like hyperbole of Ursula and her need to avoid subjugation---well, at least, the male variety. Llywelyn, in the end, makes Ursula independent in Clare, because she and the IRA never gained the power to implement their utopian delusions, replete with confiscatory inheritance taxes. "Freedom" and "liberty" are surely not found in the warp and woof of modern feminism. `Tis mere privilege in those threads, not the property rights which created her freedom.