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Strumpet City

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,505 ratings  ·  144 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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Average rating 4.26  · 
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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
Jul 13, 2008 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 sympathy for all its inhabitants, from the wealthy to the 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, rooted in a sense of place, lead people to action, and how these actions in turn transform their lives and alter their relations
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pub-1969
"Strumpet City" is an Irish social novel published in 1969, that is good 50 years too late. When everyone was waist deep in post-modernist adventures, this novel tries to warm the hearts for a battle and does it in an earnest and unpretentious way.

Like with any other social novel, whether it's Steinbeck or Hugo, we know where the author's sympathies lie. No secret is ever made of it. And frankly I do have a soft spot for a good social novel with the pureness of its heart, its childlike stubborn
Jun 13, 2013 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
Jun 09, 2014 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
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, wow, wow! I finally finished this book and, boy, was I was blown away by it! Read this if: you like epic novels; you like historical novels; you like The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist; you're interested in Ireland or want to know more about Irish history; you abhor poverty and social injustice; you want a really good read with great characters that will make you think and tug at your heart-strings. ...more
Stephen Caul
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: a-must-read
A very moving and personalised telling of the affects of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out

No harsh reality around the poverty of the time is held back, a book that is as graphic as it is explicit.

A profoundly moving story of the events leading up to and the devastating affects of not just the lock-out but the poverty tens of thousands of families were forced to endure

The complete graphic descriptive passages of the abject poverty of the Dublin working classes is unsettling as it is uncomfortable all of w
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: hf, religion, 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.
May 31, 2010 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
Julia Damphou
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Strumpet City is considered a masterpiece for good reason, it really is an a absolutely top-notch example of what a social novel can be. It's about the 1913 Dublin lockout and the lives of all sorts of people involved over the course of several years. Every relationship is meaningful and every character is deep and interesting, even the ones you dislike. I haven't stopped thinking about it since finishing it yesterday and im sure I'll keep thinking about it for a while yet ...more
Josephine (Jo)
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
Jun 30, 2013 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
Dublin was "a comfortless city" (71). "There were particular deaths no longer, only Death in general" (96). "These bricks were returning once more to dust, one by one these walls would bulge outwards, crack, collapse into rubble. They were despised and uncared for, like the tenants they sheltered, who lived for the most part on bread and tea and bore children on rickety beds to grow up in the same hardship and hunger. Larkin was thundering his message of revolution, organising strikes, leading a ...more
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
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
This book details the poverty of inner city Dublin at the turn of the 20th century. It was recently the One City One Book read in Dublin, resurrecting a book that was published in 1969. It is reminiscent of the book A Fine Balance about India, though A Fine Balance manages to be more heart-wrenching and even more hopeless. Despite being the story of the Great Lockout of 1913, it lacked some depth regarding the lockout. ...more
Bleak, but very readable.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I picked this up in Dublin's peerless Books Upstairs bookshop near to Trinity College as I was in the mood for an historical novel set in the Irish context. There are similarities to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists given that it is a tale of working class life and strife in the early twentieth century and the book's events are the real life ones of the Dublin lock out in the years before World War I and the Revolution. There are some well drawn characters and it is tightly plotted with so ...more
Cathal Kenneally
A bleak portrait of a city in a dark period of Edwardian history. Dublin in the early 20th century was not a good place to be. Poverty in Dublin was worse than a lot of other cities in Europe but somehow the people managed to get along. It was exacerbated by the general lockout of 1913 when a lot of people were out of work due to strikes. People resorted to the soup kitchen or else they went without.
Although it’s a work of fiction, there’s a lot of history in this book. This is the terrible bea
Aug 06, 2012 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
Paige Raymond
Jan 11, 2015 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
Sep 01, 2013 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
Apr 13, 2013 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
Angela Buckley
May 08, 2013 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
Rashers Tierney
Feb 14, 2015 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
Amelia, free market Puritan
I rounded up; for me, the first third was the strongest part of the story: more atmospheric, more emphasis on character development...
Still, fascinating subject! I had a great-great-uncle who was a part of the Lockout.

I have a feeling this book is very noteworthy in Ireland & the UK, but it doesn't seem to be as well known in the US, which surprises me.
Melanie Williams
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
A must read - a great book - am I glad I read it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes. Will it make it to my list of personal favourites? No. Why not? I thought the character of Rashers was excellent, but I was less enthused about some of the other characters. I learnt about some Irish her/history I didn't know much about. The descriptions of poverty and oppression were detailed and instructive. As good as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky? Not in my opinion ...but a good effort. ...more
Dec 22, 2008 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 -
Ken Boylan
Jun 04, 2013 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 .
Sallie Dunn
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Writing this review in 2019, this is the best piece of Irish literature I have ever read. Very worthy of a re-read
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Goodreads Ireland: Spoiler Thread: Strumpet City 41 54 Aug 10, 2014 04:37AM  
Goodreads Ireland: May-July Quarterly Irish Read 2013: Strumpet City 64 61 Aug 26, 2013 03:14PM  

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