From the Author
My father's uncle was shot during the Irish civil war of 1922/3, though nobody was able to say by whom, or why. And I grew up, fifty years later, in the village where this had happened, surrounded by silence about this event. So when I came to write fiction, it was natural to turn to that time, and its consequences. It seemed to sum up so much of what I wanted to say about what gets spoken and what remains secret and unsaid.
And also about the struggle every human being experiences between freedom and belonging. Because while the novel is set against the background of the scrappy, squalid conflict that was The Irish Civil War, it is not so much about that as about all sorts of private, intimate and personal wars -- around sexuality, and family, and love.
I very much wanted to include the female experience during that war -- called 'The War of The Brothers' though women were more involved in it than the earlier independence struggle -- and draw parallels between the outer, male-driven conflict and other more intimate struggles within family and other close relationships.
So the book turned into a three-generational family fiction, using a contemporary (1990s) narrator tracing her family history back, and giving us extracts from letters and diaries and scenes she has written herself as she imagines her grandmother and great-aunts and -uncles as young women and men.
I set the shootout that killed Barney to happen in a similar place in Co. Wexford, on the same day as my uncle was shot, and in similar fashion -- a small memorial. A number of things that happened in the novel were taken from real life, like the inquest and investigation into the killing by the Free State court. But a great deal more was invented.
Readers always want to know which bits "really" happened but it isn't that simple. It all gets very mixed up. All I can say is that I ended up with a story that was very different to what really happened. Imagination came in and filled the blanks, answered the questions I couldn't find "real" answers for, and made a pattern that was reflective of, but very different to, what actually happened.