The struggle of the Irish people for independence is one of the epic tales of the 20th century. Morgan Llywelyn has chosen it as the subject of her major work, The Irish Century, a multi-novel chronicle that began with 1916, and now continues in 1921, both a story and a history.
The two big historical names in 1921 are Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins, both famous, mysterious, and familiar Irish figures.
The year 1921 is the year of the Irish Civil War and the year of the separation of Ireland into two nations, south and north. The central character is Henry Mooney, a journalist (based upon the author's grandfather), who struggles for truth in his reporting during the terrible conflict, and falls in love with an Englishwoman in Ireland in the midst of political and military horrors.
The Irish Century Novels
1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion
1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War
1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State
1972: A Novel of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution
1999: A Novel of the Celtic Tiger and the Search for Peace
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Llywelyn's second novel in the series she inaugurated with 1916 (1998) furthers her investigation of Irish history by focusing on Ireland's struggle for freedom from Britain. This volume begins in 1917 in the aftermath of the Easter Rising and carries through to the civil war and the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. That Llywelyn knows her Irish history, culture, language and ambience is unquestionable. Unfortunately, in her attempt to amalgamate her encyclopedic knowledge of Ireland with the fictional adventures of Henry Mooney, a journalist torn between the traditional demands of family and personal ambition and his commitment to his country, she produces a story that is as dense as an Irish bog and nearly as confusing to navigate. Henry, a supporter of the Republican cause but a political moderate and neutral observer by nature, moves with alacrity among the various factions, apparently enjoying journalistic immunity as he uses his pen to further the Irish cause and attack the British. As the situation in the country deteriorates, Henry's personal life becomes more complex. Smitten with passionate S le Halloran, but unable to possess her since she is the wife of his best friend and Easter veteran Ned (protagonist of 1916), Henry falls in love with beautiful Anglo-Irish siren Ella Rutledge, further dividing his loyalties. Often sliding into essayistic prose, with footnotes supplementing the text, the novel depicts events and political developments in exhaustive detail. Though the account of the civil war is thorough and nuanced, readers of 1916 and other popular books by Llywelyn (Lion of Ireland; Bard, etc.) may be taken aback by the historical heft of this offering. Forecasts: Llywelyn is a popular writer and this book won't hurt her sales record, boosted as it will be by an excerpt in the mass market edition of The Last Prince of Ireland (due out March 1), an eight-city author tour, national ad/promo and the availability of a reading group guide (the book is caboosed by 17 pages of source notes and bibliography).