rabbitprincess's Reviews > The Rebels of Ireland

The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd
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Nov 21, 10

bookshelves: 2010, from-me-to-me
Recommended for: those who read and enjoyed The Princes of Ireland
Read from November 03 to 20, 2010, read count: 1

A wholehearted four stars for the sequel to the very good The Princes of Ireland. I probably enjoyed Rebels slightly more than Princes because I had Princes to warm up with and become accustomed to Rutherfurd's style and storytelling method.

This book covers the period between 1534 and the 1920s, ending with the creation of the Irish Free State. There's a lot of ground to cover, particularly in the 1700s, but Rutherfurd's writing smoothly moves along through the ages and you hardly notice the passage of time. Various historical personages make appearances or are mentioned in the text, such as Swift, Yeats and Joyce, and even a visitor or two from the United States. They blend so well with Rutherfurd's fictional characters that sometimes you may find yourself running to Google to find out whether so-and-so is actually real.

Rutherfurd's characters are very well realized and pull you right into their world. I particularly enjoyed the Mountwalsh family, with old Fortunatus and his daughter-in-law Georgiana being my most favourites. Georgiana's son Hercules, while extremely disagreeable, was at least a character worthy of reaction (better to have characters that elicit strong reactions rather than indifference). And if you have Irish ancestors who lived through the Potato Famine, as I did, the section involving the Maddens and the plight of County Clare during that time will prove very instructive.

I also found it kind of strange to be reading about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot in the days leading up to November 5. I was so immersed in the struggle of the Irish Catholics that I was actually rather cross with all of the "Remember, remember the 5th of November" status updates I kept seeing on Facebook. I'm not Catholic, but I really sympathized with their plight at the time of the Gunpowder Plot thanks to Rutherfurd's writing, and so spent November 5 thinking, "Well James, if you had just let your loyal Catholic subjects practise their religion peaceably, maybe they would not have tried to blow you up." It was very interesting to see the other side of this historical event, as I don't recall reading about it from a Catholic perspective before.

But this is not an entirely serious book. I was definitely chuckling in some places, like a few scenes of very clever political manoeuvring, the part where Guinness is first invented (that was the part where I said to myself, "Man, I LOVE this book"), and most of the Oliver Cromwell section because I had the Monty Python song of the same name stuck in my head.

The only part where I kind of lost interest was at the end... it tailed off a bit and I was not quite as invested in the fates of the families once they reached the 20th century. Perhaps it's a bit too "recent" for me within the context of this epic saga. But that's not a serious fault, as the action still moved along fairly quickly and was backed with loads of information.

To sum up, both this and The Princes of Ireland come highly recommended if you like Irish history or just good solid historical fiction in general. It may also be helpful if you've been to Dublin -- you'll be able to picture where everything is that much more clearly. And if you haven't been, this book just might inspire you to go.
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Reading Progress

11/03/2010 page 71
8.0% "In the reign of King James (early 1600s)."
11/04/2010 page 214
23.0% "Now I have the Monty Python song "Oliver Cromwell" stuck in my head."
11/05/2010 page 263
28.0% "How DOES that one character live for so long?! This is the mid-1600s, people!" 1 comment
11/07/2010 page 297
32.0% "Drogheda under attack!"
11/08/2010 page 385
41.0% "And Jonathan Swift makes a cameo appearance."
11/09/2010 page 473
51.0% "OHMYGOD Guinness. And Benjamin Franklin. I love this book."
11/10/2010 page 520
56.0% "The 1790s now."
11/11/2010 page 556
60.0% "Wolfe Tone? Like the Sadies song "Wolf Tones"?" 1 comment
11/12/2010 page 621
67.0% "Union between England and Ireland. Finally reached 1800!"
11/15/2010 page 677
73.0% "Into the late 1820s... the potato famine is approaching."
11/16/2010 page 727
78.0% "The descriptions of the rotting potatoes are gut-wrenching."
11/17/2010 page 767
83.0% "Legislating a famine out of existence?! Pffft."
11/18/2010 page 814
88.0% "FINALLY reached the 20th century. Now we're into the home stretch. Sort of."
11/19/2010 page 853
92.0% "James Joyce get away from me!!! (Hark! A Vagrant reference)"
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