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The Year of the French (The Thomas Flanagan Trilogy #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  671 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
In 1798, Irish patriots, committed to freeing their country from England, landed with a company of French troops in County Mayo, in westernmost Ireland. They were supposed to be an advance guard, followed by other French ships with the leader of the rebellion, Wolfe Tone. Briefly they triumphed, raising hopes among the impoverished local peasantry and gathering a group of ...more
Paperback, 516 pages
Published October 31st 2004 by NYRB Classics (first published 1979)
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Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Talk about a book freighted with weird and erroneous expectations. I was nine when it was published, twelve when the momentous occasion of the Irish-made (or half-Irish-made) production locked the nation to their screens every Sunday night. It was a big deal. The book was ubiquitous. It seemed to be in every library, bookshop, house, waiting room and - seeing as my Dad was a mechanic - left under the back window of half the cars in Ireland. All I knew was that I wanted nothing to do with it. Iri ...more
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don't expect to review or rate too many books, but here's one I just had to, mostly because I'm going to start Flannagan's final book on Ireland soon. This one, which I read years ago, is one of the most underrated I can think of. Sad, beautiful, frightening... once I let the adjectives get going, they won't stop.

Literature, history and poetry working seamlessly together, it's a truly rewarding read, though not always an easy one. Not only does TF have an utterly convincing grasp of the mood,
I actually gave up on this book half way through. It is just too slow for me, it reads more like a non-fiction history book than a novel. Plus I have 14 books needing to be picked up at the library, so have to read those.
Susan Johnson
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
review is from: The Year of the French (Paperback)
This is one of the finest books I have ever read. The language and the writing are so wonderful that you just have to savor it. It took me a long time to read this as I couldn't read in a rapid manner. It was like a wonderful, warm, inviting bed that you just want to get in and roll around and enjoy it.
I knew nothing about this time period and event in Ireland. It was the book club choice for my Goodreads Irish book club and I am so glad I found
Roger Brunyate
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland, history
More History than Novel

I was born in Ireland, of an Irish mother and an English father, but this book has taught me more about my country and the tangled relations between my peoples than I ever knew before. By tracing the events that took place in a single year (1798) in a remote part of the country (County Mayo on the West coast), Thomas Flanagan pulls together threads stretching back many centuries, embracing all classes of Irish society, threads still tangled in the fighting in Northern Irel
M. Milner
An immersive novel, Thomas Flanagan’s historical novel takes readers right into the muck and bogs of 18th century Ireland, it’s prejudices and injustices, it’s poetry and cruelty. It’s pretty great.

For years, Flanagan was a professor of Irish fiction, specializing in 19th century Irish novelists, writers who were basically blotted out by James Joyce’s explosive fiction. An American, Flanagan spent a lot of time there and befriended several writers (including Seamus Deane, who contributes a short
Terry Pearce
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There is a traditional Irish ballad, 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley', that kept coming to mind as I read this. It tells the story of a young man who leaves his love to fight for the United Irishmen in 1798, alongside the French, against English rule, and about his fate. It is sad, and dark, and beautiful, and true (in that way that does not ask 'did this specifically happen in exactly this way', but rather, 'does this tell us how the world was, for someone, at some time').

It is a testament to
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Annis, Volgadon
Page 151:
"Are they the soldiers from the ships?" "Yes," MacCarthy said. "French soldiers, the French have landed."

The plot describes the French invasion of Ireland and the rebellion by the native Irish also know as The Races of Castlebar, County Mayo.

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The story itself is quite interesting even if an American-born writer wrote it.

However, it’s not an easy book to read since it has 5 different narrators and at least 60 characters.

A The Year of the French (1982) TV series was made base
Angela Paquin
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Famine Irish
Shelves: haveread
It was dense history. But it was a history for anyone who had ancestors from County Mayo.

Thanks to this book I understand why the my mother's hometown of Clinton MA has the Fighting Gaels, why the Acre is called the Acre, why the busiest street is high st and not main st.... Thanks to the book I have an understanding and a better appreciation of the names of landmarks in the town that our ancestors were using from the Old Country.

The importance of the poet and historian in Irish tradition. The
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-history
I was torn in final assessment of Thomas Flanagan’s novel “The Year of the French.” It is a fine combination of scholarship and entertainment. It represents history and fiction intricately interwoven – a fine example of a good historical novel. It is also, however, too long and at times so slow as to border on tedium. A sharp editor’s pencil could have culled fifty pages out and improved the novel significantly. A good novel must maintain narrative impetus; Flanagan loses it in the run up to the ...more
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
A sad, haunting tale--- an account of the Irish rising of 1798 and the French landing in support of the rebellion. Flanagan calls up the shock and horror of the doomed rebellion and the savage punishment inflicted by the English as well as the bitter political in-fighting among the Irish and the growing knowledge that the French have their own designs on Ireland and care nothing for Irish independence. Well-written and powerful.
Malcolm Pellettier
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Certainly one of the best historical fictions I've ever read.

well worth the effort.
Carolyn Stevens Shank
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Irish question explained: a gripping and very tragic account of the 1798 French landing in County Mayo, Ireland, which triggered a brutal and bloody revolution against the English: the prequel to the Act of Union. An absorbing and masterful historical novel, Tom Flanagan's 1979 masterpiece deals with the complexities of the clash between English and Irish cultures. A wide and memorable list of characters recreate the event in a fast-paced and seamlessly accurate account. It is peopled with ...more
Matt McCormick
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
When most of us think of Ireland and suffering we certainly go first to the starvation of the mid 1800's which through death and desertion left the island three million people fewer. Or, the revolution of the early twentieth century and the wars of religion in the late. What is often forgotten is the fact that Ireland has always been a place of sorrow brought from without.
Flanagan's trilogy starts with The Year of the French, a year when British occupation and a French invasion made Ireland a p
Paul Barron
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing book and journey through a chapter of Irish history that is largely forgotten. The year of liberty 1798 usually concentrates on the Wexford rising leaving The People's Republic of Connaught, uprisings in the Midlands and Ulster as mere footnotes.

In The Year of the French Thomas Flanagan suceeds in giving a social snapshot of the time and shows the rebellion from many differing and opposing points of view. The book is brilliantly written and a great achievement considering tha
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is another of those "if you have an ounce of Irish blood in you" you have to read. It's about the very sad attempted rising in the 18th century. The name comes from the hope that France would come and assist the rebellion. I'm so glad I still have this book. It will be a great reread.
Sep 19, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Monica by: Uncle Jim, then Donald, 30 odd years later
Mom was first generation Irish. Her brother read this book back in the1980's and started an argument during a family visit and proceeded to leave us all there in a lurch.
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Also by Thomas Flanagan: Tenants of Time and The End of the Hunt, both 4 star
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrative is a bit of a jumble, switching out different narrators and different narrative modes (diaries, memoirs written years on, an attempt at an objective historical account by a pastor who at the end is anything but objective, a third person narrator with limited point of view who appears from time to time to push the story along). Many of the characters seemed to be caricatures, some objectionably so, but one presumes the historian who wrote the book did his research, and those were ve ...more
Kevin Donohue
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
History from the viewpoint of the layers of society.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
A great slog through a bog of a book, and if you're up on your Irish history, you'll know the story doesn't end happily.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Dense and rich...rewards time and patience.
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
war--One must not enter the reading of this book lightly. It is a formidable task, not light reading, but so well worth it. I love this author for expanding my vocabulary with words such as spalpeens, omadhaun, ensorcelled, and he makes every effort rewarded. I learned that the namesake for the Tara plantation in Gone With the Wind actually exists in Ireland, and is called The Hill of Tara, known as Temair in gaeilge, being once the ancient seat of power in Ireland – 142 kings are said to have r ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Usually, when I take a month to read a book, that's not a good sign. Not so in this case. "The Year of the French" is a densely-layered book that gives an account of the 1798 landing of French troops, accompanied by Irish patriots, in County Mayo, Ireland. Buoyed by the American and French revolutions, the United Irishmen were ready to throw off English rule. Early victories seemed to indicate success. But the English retaliation was brutal and the rebellion was crushed.

The story is told by seve
Deborah Lincoln
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 1979, this is a novel of the 1798 Irish rebellion attributed to Wolfe Tone, who appears briefly. The French, a thousand soldiers under Humbert, land in County Mayo and lead a rabble of peasants and United Irishmen in doomed revolt. Owen MacCarthy, poet and rake, tends to be the central (fictional) character. Actual historical characters are also featured, including George and John Moore of Moore House (John was briefly the first president of the Irish Republic). Told from ...more
Edie Folta
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An incredible and enthralling historic novel based on the events of 1798, when a French revolutionary landed in County Mayo to the native Irish in throwing off the yoke of the British. Told through the eyes of a drunken poet/schoolmaster, it unwinds relentlessly toward its horrific close. A vivid retelling of a chapter of Irish history that was heretofore unknown to me. Real characters like Dennis Browne and General Cornwallis are mixed with a few well-chosen literary creations. Flanagan was bot ...more
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Quite simply a brilliant novel, ostensibly centered on the Irish Rebellion of 1798 desribed from multiple points of view--characters from all levels of eighteenth century Anglo-Irish society. But the novel truly attempts to convey the complexity and contradictions inherent in the term "Ireland," a society riven by economic and religious strife as well as enslavement (or enchantment) with legends, fables and poetry, creating the illusion of an heroic past and the prophecy of a glorious future. Th ...more
Buddy Don
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
While this was a wonderful historical novel, giving one a full appreciation for the situation in Ireland during 1798, I can't call it a "good read," since there is nothing to hope for in the book. The troubles between Ireland and England always seemed insoluble to me (I'm delighted to have eventually been wrong), and during this period of time, when the French sent a small force to help foment an Irish rebellion, there was no good outcome for which a reader could hope. I had to push my way throu ...more
Kevin Keating
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book well-recommended by Richard Katerndahl, a friend of mine, over thirty years ago. I brought it with me on several moves, guilty that I hadn't read it yet. FINALLY, I have read it. It was pretty good. I have no complaints really except that I've known about most of the stuff in it already. I kinda already knew what bastards the Protestants were to the Irish from Cromwell on, so it didn't really shed new light for me, but if someone knew not very much about it (like me thirty ...more
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Almost chose the 5-star 'it was amazing' because of the work that clearly went into writing it: Grand writing, told from a dozen separate points of view, that slowly gathers history into the overall historical tale, like a snowball rolling downhill. Sad (don't read this looking for a 'cheery book'...), almost infuriating (in terms of the attitudes of those who wound up 'being victorious' after the conflict came to its momentary end), and 'felt true.' Recommended read. (I read an old paperback ve ...more
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Thomas Flanagan (November 5, 1923 – March 21, 2002) was an American professor of English literature who specialized in Irish literature. He was also a successful novelist. Flanagan, who was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, graduated from Amherst College in 1945. He was a tenured full - Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley until his retirement. Flanagan died ...more
More about Thomas Flanagan...

Other Books in the Series

The Thomas Flanagan Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Tenants of Time  (The Thomas Flanagan Trilogy #2)
  • The End of the Hunt

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“Music and dance. What I have written must surely suggest a people cursed by Heaven,... No people on earth, I am persuaded, loves music so well, nor dance, nor oratory, though the music falls strangely on my ears... More than once I have been at Mr. Treacy's when at close of dinner, some traveling harper would be called in, blind as often as not, his fingernails kept long and the mysteries of his art hidden in their horny ridges. The music would come to us with the sadness of a lost world, each note a messenger sent wandering among the Waterford goblets. Riding home late at night, past tavern or alehouse, I would hear harps and violins, thudding feet rising to a frenzy. I have seen them dancing at evening on fairdays, in meadows decreed by custom for such purposes, their bodies swift-moving, and their faces impassive but bright-eyed, intent. I have watched them in silence, reins held loosely in my hand, and have marveled at the stillness of my own body, my shoulders rigid and heavy.” 0 likes
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