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Strumpet City

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  906 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
Set in Dublin during the Lockout of 1913, Strumpet City is a panoramic novel of city life. It embraces a wide range of social milieux, from the miseries of the tenements to the cultivated, bourgeois Bradshaws. It introduces a memorable cast of characters: the main protagonist, Fitz, a model of the hard-working, loyal and abused trade unionist; the isolated, well-meaning an ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published February 21st 2006 by Gill (first published 1969)
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Community Reviews

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It was one of those never-ending June evenings, with long reaches of sky from which the light seemed unable to ebb. Rashers moved slowly ... At Chandlers Court he stopped to get his breath and to look up at the sky. It was never ending, with never fading light. He thought of Death and felt it was waiting for him somewhere in the sky's deeps, cold Sergeant Death, as the song said, Death the sad smiling tyrant, the cruel remorseless old foe.

A wonderful novel, this. It tells the stories, spread ove
Bill  Kerwin
Oct 12, 2015 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

James Plunkett, although not a great stylist, enriches his profound knowledge of working-class Irish history with a great love for the city of Dublin and a profound sympathy for all its inhabitants, both rich and poor. As a consequence, this novel about the 1913 Lock-out is wise and often very moving.

Plunkett is particularly good at showing how political convictions lead people to action, and how these actions in turn transform their lives and alter their relationships in unexpected ways.
Jun 14, 2013 Noeleen rated it liked it
In addition to being my May Book Club read, Strumpet City is the chosen book for Dublin, One City, One Book, an initiative of Dublin City Council. Further information on this initiative can be found at

Like many others, I watched Hugh Leonard’s adaptation of James Plunkett’s Strumpet City on RTE television in 1980, we all sat glued to the television screen each week, eagerly awaiting each episode as it unfolded. So I was delighted this was chosen in our Book Club a
Emma Flanagan
Mar 25, 2015 Emma Flanagan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-lit-read
Strumpet City is the great social novel of Dublin. Plunkett does for Dublin what writers like Dickens did for London. He expertly encapsulates the social strata of early 20th century Dublin with all it's hardship and poverty but also the loving comradery of the people which helps them survive the hardship.

Plunketts descriptions of the city are masterful. He lets us hear, smell and feel the clamour of the city. A city which remained largely unchanged until the 1960s when the tenements were clear
Jul 20, 2013 Chrissie rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, hf, ireland, alt
A good book of historical fiction set in Dublin and focusing on the Lockout of 1913. There are characters from all walks of life and the story relayed is realistic. The plight of the poor can not possibly leave the reader unmoved. In the foreground you have a set of fictional characters, in the background the well-known Jim Larkin. My complaint is that you can easily sort the characters into two groups - the villains and the heroes.

The bottom line: I felt I ought to be more engaged than I was.
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
I enjoyed reading this book.
It was rich in themes which range from socialism, trade-unions, strikes, police bruatlity, religion, poverty etc.

It is based on the period before world war I. The characters, most of them are poor and destitute. It is a struggle to get a meal a day.

The workers are oppressed by the employers.

The strikes are rampant.

The police are brutal.

The priests are irresponsible and misleading.

The Government is reluctant and turns a deaf ear to the cries of it's citizens.

The ri
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I first read it in the 1970s and at that time I was young and idealistic. I believed that all the problems covered in the book, the extreme poverty and injustice at the beginning of the twentieth century were things of the past and that workers were not treated in that way any more. The story covers the period prior to the beginning of 'the troubles' in Ireland and focuses upon the treatment of the men on strike for fair pay who were facing Lock-out from their job ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Frank by: RTÉ via PBS
Shelves: irish-authors
I first read this sometime in the early '80s, after having seen the RTÉ television programme on PBS. It's in the sprawling epic category, although it doesn't stray much further north than Drumcondra nor south of Dún Laoghaire; the Phoenix Park marks its western extremity and Dublin Bay is the east. Oh, there are mentions of Connemara and Cork, Liverpool and London, but those are place people will come from or go to. The real action takes place either in Kingstown (as Dún Laoghaire was then known ...more
Paige Raymond
Jan 11, 2015 Paige Raymond rated it it was amazing
Strumpet City, written by James Plunkett, is a historical fiction novel set during the early 1900’s in Dublin before and during World War I. The novel begins by introducing a couple of the supporting characters from one of the main supporting characters Mary’s point of view. Mary is the girlfriend of the protagonist, Bob Fitzgerald – “Fitz”. The King and Queen of England are visiting Dublin as the novel opens immediately with two juxtaposing tones; one of rebellious anarchy and one of love. Mary ...more
Silvia Pastorelli
I had the luck to find this book abandoned in my street, among others, it looked new and probably never read. I picked it up, as I have a special affection for Ireland and Irish literature, but delayed the reading for months, as I never felt inclined. I should have read it straightaway!
I loved Plunkett's prose almost immediately and his, at times lyrical, description of Dublin. The story is set from 1907 to 1914 in Dublin during the Lockout, a series of strikes during what probably is the most i
Bleak, but very readable.
Aug 06, 2012 Dirk rated it liked it
I’ve recently read three substantial novels dealing with strikes or similar struggles: Frank Noris’ The Octopus, Zola’s Germinal, and now Strumpet City. Strumpet City portrays the lives of several characters affected by labor unrest culminating in a protracted and devastating lockout. The characters are fictional, but the story is based closely on events between the years 1904 and 1914 in Dublin. The characters range from the very poor to the upper-middle-class but they concentrate on the workin ...more
Jun 30, 2013 Edelita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Irish History, European History, Historical Fiction
A tremendously powerful novel. It tells the story of the 1913 Lockout in Dublin, at a time when many of the working classes were already living in dire poverty, worsened by the effects of the Lockout. (The Lockout was a major industrial dispute involving 20,000 workers and 300 of their employers).
The characters in the novel represent both sides of the divide. Even so, as in all good novels, opinions are not quite so clear cut. Some of the upper classes do try to help the poor and of course some
Rashers Tierney
Feb 16, 2015 Rashers Tierney rated it it was amazing
James Plunkett created some of the most well-rounded and true-to-life characters in all of Irish literature. From the frostiness and superiority of the morally superior business class ensconced in Kingstown to the tenement dwellers who eked out an existence in Europe's most miserable slums, this epic saga tells the story of Ireland's struggle to define its destiny, and of the conflicted interests among its clergy, businesspeople and the mass of the working people. Set against the background of t ...more
Angela Buckley
May 08, 2013 Angela Buckley rated it it was amazing
An outstanding epic novel that shed a fascinating yet challenging insight into the lives of ordinary people in Dublin prior to the Easter Rising in 1916. Plunkett followed the stories of several characters from different strata of society through the political turmoil and clashing ideals of the era. His description was extraordinary, with often harrowing detail but also wry almost humorous observations. I loved the book and couldn't put it down - it reminded me of the novels of one of my all-tim ...more
Sep 21, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 02, 2014 Suggestion_noted rated it it was amazing
This should be The Book About Dublin, rather than Ulysses. Don't get me wrong, I like Ulysses, but vivid and all as Dublin is in that book, it's nowhere near as instantly recognisable as the city in 'Strumpet'. This is a gregarious book, in and among the characters of the city, from the destitute in tenements to the rich landlords on the coast. We are never locked completely into the perspective of one or two characters - instead we see the humanity of them all, even the ones who often behave ir ...more
Jul 10, 2014 Lily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For some reason I can't fathom, aside from a popular T.V. adaptation and selection as the Dublin One City, One Book read for 2013, this novel does not seem to have garnered the attention such an achievement deserves. Plunkett's sprawling novel combines compelling historical details, complex and shifting characters, and grand scope, weaving these elements together with a spare writing style which renders starkly vivid the impossible situation Dubliners found themselves facing in the early 20th ce ...more
Adrian Fingleton
Sep 25, 2015 Adrian Fingleton rated it really liked it
I read this book while abroad - which felt somewhat weird, given the authentic Dublin setting. It also is set during a period (Ireland 1910 to 1921) on which I did an online course last year, so I had a fair idea of the backdrop to the story.

The story is a bit 'old fashioned' but it's a good read, historically quite accurate I think. It chronicles the slums of Dublin, the contrast with the rich of Kingstown, the dilemmas of the priests and the workers who were torn between striking and starving.
Ken Boylan
Jun 04, 2013 Ken Boylan rated it it was amazing
This is such a great read , if you want to Know what life was like in Dublin slums how the Catholic Church had a firm hand on the working classes , from the rich streets of Kingstown to the tenements of Chandelor court it is a epic read with Richly layered characters the will make you hate , love cry and feel shame that people had to live is such circumstances .
Dec 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it
For anyone ever tempted to read Leon Uris's appalling "Trinity", read "Strumpet City" instead.

Plunkett's collection of short stories, "The Trusting and the Maimed" is also worthwhile; 'Janey Mary', probably one of the best known stories, was made into a short film last year. It's online at this site -
Pat Roberts
Feb 16, 2016 Pat Roberts rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dublin, ireland
I found this book while traveling through Dublin, and it seemed fitting to buy and read it. The cover states that it is 'one of the best Irish novels of the twentieth century...', and while I haven't read many Irish novels in order to compare, I found this one to be excellent. It is a story of the haves and have nots of the early 20th century, concentrating on the years between 1907 and 1914. Tired of poor treatment and low wages by the company owners who employed them, workers tried to unionize ...more
Reff Girl
Apr 24, 2014 Reff Girl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
2013 One City One Book for Dublin Ireland. This story centers on a strike in 1913 that kept 20,000 people from working. Ireland was still under the heel of English rule at this time, but we can see the beginnings of the movement that will eventually demand independent rule.

Plunkett's characters inhabit the world of working men and women, trade unions, factory owners and the church. The author exposes the strengths and flaws of a society dominated by the catholic church and factory owners, who o
Mar 11, 2014 Witkinddavis rated it really liked it
Strumpet City follows the lives of multiple characters from all walks of life as they endure the lockout in Dublin in 1913, a seminal step on the road to Irish independence. The suffering of the working class was monumental. Starvation was a worse enemy than the brutality of all sides. The reader grows to know and love, or at least understand, many people, which is often painful because of the deep suffering. I was reminded of the current situation in Ukraine as I read about the heroism of a bea ...more
Thomas Harte
Feb 03, 2016 Thomas Harte rated it it was amazing
It is rare to find Irish literature that deals so well with both ideology and religion and the tense relationship between the two. The classic portrayal of Father O Connor is a brilliant image of Catholicism and its relationship the poor in Dublin. This is really one of the very best Irish novels and what I loved most of all is its characters and how the author develops these characters throughout the book. In Rashers Tierney we have one of the foremost literary characters. This is a tremendous ...more
Mar 06, 2016 Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
What a book to start the New Year with!

I had heard only great things about this book and it did not disappoint.

Strumpet City takes place in Dublin over a span of seven years, climaxing at the Lock-Out of 1913. Plunkett shows many different perspectives throughout the novel: a young couple, an old beggar, many workers, the rich tenant owners and the clergy. Everyone gets their voice.

The story is bleak. Plunkett doesn't romanticise the , but presents the facts while keeping the story interesting
Alejandra Naughton
Strumpet City

I love reading novels, I am interested in Irish history. As a consequence, Strumpet City was a "must-read". It has all the ingredients to stick you to the story, to keep on reading up to the end. Even though it is not the typical familiar saga that drives you through generations, Strumpet City develops very deeply the life of characters, during the Dublin lock out (1907-1914). They are very different between them but, at the same time, they are struggled with the same passion: Irish
Richard Sutton
Jul 22, 2013 Richard Sutton rated it really liked it
Excellent pacing and writing voice. Just the right measure of vernacular and place narrative. The characters were decently plotted and not completely cardboard. Some were truly memorable. The publisher might have added some typographic device to help alert the reader to the frequent POV shifts. Two of the characters seemed to pull the plot together for me. One, a slightly inebriated Catholic priest and the second, a street musician and jack of all trades. The story takes place over the years lea ...more
Sep 22, 2013 Gavin rated it really liked it
'Strumpet City' is one of the finest 'historical' novels I have read this year, set in early 20th century Dublin, during the infamous 1913 lock-outs, the book expertly draws the reader into the social upheavals which informed the everyday lives of Dubliners - irrespective of class - during the years 1907-13.

The portrait painted is of a city of extremes, both of poverty (The Inner City) and wealth (Kingstown). As someone who is largely ignorant of the modern social history of Ireland, the novel w
Sep 21, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Well I finished it but I must admit it was a struggle. It started really well and I found it very interesting but mid-way, it lost it for me. I found it very long, there was no end in sight and I struggled to complete it. It certainly wasn't a book I was itching to pick back up. I finished it as it was nominated as a Book Club read and out of respect to the person who nominated it, I didn't want to give up half way.
I did like the characters, my favourites were Fitz, Rashers and Yearling. The 3 p
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Goodreads Ireland: Spoiler Thread: Strumpet City 41 47 Aug 10, 2014 04:37AM  
Goodreads Ireland: May-July Quarterly Irish Read 2013: Strumpet City 64 59 Aug 26, 2013 03:14PM  
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