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The Canal Bridge: A Novel of Ireland, Love, and the First World War Hardcover – April 1, 2014
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*Starred Review* From Phelan’s effectively constructed and emotionally honest novel about Irish participation in WWI, the reader gains a new perspective on how the Great War decimated lives throughout Europe. Told in a chorus of alternating but harmonious voices, the narrative relates the story of two boyhood chums in rural Ireland who, in a monumental gesture to broaden their horizons, together join the British army (this is 1913, when Ireland was still part of the UK) and are eventually deployed to India. But before their troop ship can arrive there, the vessel is required to turn back. War has been declared in Europe, and the two boys are plunged full-tilt into the carnage as stretcher bearers. Battle scenes are graphically drawn but appropriately so. Phelan’s intention is to accurately show the staggering waste of human life that the two friends observe, the memories of which keep the one friend who returns to Ireland at war’s end from being mentally quite at home for some time. As is observed, “There are more ways of getting killed in a war than by bullets.” --Brad Hooper
Tom Phelan's The Canal Bridge is the best novel of love in the time of war since Cold Mountain. It is an old-fashioned story in the very best sense: dramatic, passionate, unpredictable, gorgeously written, heartbreakingly true, ultimately ennobling. This is truly a great book. I loved every page.” Howard Frank Mosher, author of Walking to Gatlinburg
The Canal Bridge is a tour de force of writing, passionate, moving, and brilliant. Here is World War I in all its madness, and its terrible humanity.” Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd
There is no false bravado in Phelan’s riveting, unsparing account, no sentimentality, no hollow heroes, no hyper-patriotic blather. Phelan’s characters live and breathe and bleed. Phelan’s fiction is the real thing. The Canal Bridge is a classic.” Peter Quinn, author of The Banished Children of Eve and Dry Bones
Effectively constructed and emotionally honest . . . the reader gains a new perspective on how the Great War decimated lives throughout Europe.”
Booklist, starred review
Masterful . . . Must be ranked among the most successful novels dealing with the First World War.” Irish Emigrant
Phelan is a marvelous storyteller. Don’t miss out on a great contemporary author.” Irish Eyes (Paris)
Powerful and deeply affecting.” Books Ireland
Incredibly moving story . . . The writing is consistently stunning.” Irish Echo
The Canal Bridge sings and weeps . . . Thrilling.” Celtic Connection
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Generals are usually honored and battles recalled but the suffering of individuals who have little or no power to influence events is actively disremembered. That may be in the service of revving nations up to do it again.
Two young Irish boys join the English army for adventure. They are despised by some fellow town people for having anything to do with the English. Their adventure lands them in the trenches of Europe and the slaughter of the war is vividly described. Those who return from Europe fight another war of adjusting to life in Ireland and trying to make sense of their sacrifices. Some find love after the war and they also find the hatred that has plagued Ireland for many years. This is a riveting book.