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The Year of the French

(The Thomas Flanagan Trilogy #1)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  850 ratings  ·  86 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 July 19th 1979)
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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
...more
Nigel
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
Brendan
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,
...more
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
...more
Bill
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.
Manray9
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 stellar 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 and improved the tale. A good novel must maintain narrative impetus; Flanagan loses it in the run up to the Battle of Ballina ...more
Roz  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
...more
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
...more
Aaron Arnold
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
During the tumult of the French Revolutionary Wars - before the Great Man himself transformed them into the Napoleonic Wars - the haphazard French attempts to aid Irish rebels in their independence are usually relegated to a footnote. After all, we know how the story ends, and the classically British mix of luck, skill, and sheer ruthlessness which ended those efforts condemned the Irish to over a century more of brutal colonial rule. But in Flanagan's hands this doomed effort to spread the flam ...more
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
...more
Laura
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
...more
Dirk
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I do not ordinarily read historical fiction, largely because I suspect it invites the exercise of artistic license that exhausts the truth behind what real people once did and said, but my experiences with New York Review Books titles--almost all of them very favorable--persuaded me to set aside my bias in this instance. I'm so glad I did.

The Year of the French refers to 1798 and one of the many episodes in the centuries-long saga of English versus Irish/Protestant versus Catholic, otherwise kno
...more
Alison
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A+ historical fiction
Tiarnan
Difficult to summarise my thoughts on such a long and involved book just after finishing it.

While it's fair to say it could definitely have done with losing 100-150 pages, which could have aided the narrative tension, this is still one of the few works of epic Irish historical fiction that doesn't indulge in romantic or arid visions of the complex Irish past.

At the same time, this is definitely a book that is marked in (sophisticated, not blunt) ways by the historiography of the time at which it
...more
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
...more
DoctorM
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
wow.
Certainly one of the best historical fictions I've ever read.

well worth the effort.
Carol
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
If you want to understand the currents and cross-currents of Irish history look no further than this book. However do not expect to hear a lot from various female voices in this book. As meticulous and interesting and detailed as Flanagan’s depictions of Irish politics were, this is very much a book of the late 1970s in which not a lot of attention or development is given to any characters outside of grown men. There’s one woman who cheats on her husband there’s another woman who pines for her f ...more
Daniel Polansky
A polyphonic retelling of the failed Irish rebellion of 1798, which saw a small army of French revolutionaries and Irish militia put down with brutal severity by the English Crown. This is historical fiction in the Raj Quartet mold – no noble charges, no romantic retellings, only desperate men doing the best they can under terrible circumstances. Flanagan has some fine prose, and each of the many viewpoints – from Lord Cornwallis to a roaming poet/schoolteacher – feel honest and fully fleshed. I ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘He drew the sheet of blank paper toward him, and picked up one of the black quills.’

In 1798, there were a series of rebellions in Ireland as Irish patriots rose up against British rule. And, after the main uprisings had already been defeated, about 1,000 French soldiers under the leadership of General Humbert landed at Kilcummin in County Mayo. They were joined by about 5,000 locals. Initially, they had some success. They inflicted a humiliating defeat on the British at Castlebar (also known as
...more
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 it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
...more
Rob Peyton
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Describes the 1798 failed rebellion of the Irish against the English. The story is told through the view of many different characters who represent different sides of the rebellion.

There is relevance in the story to the current environment of falsely painting all members of a particular religious persuasion with a single brush
Barbara
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.
Bill
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Also by Thomas Flanagan: Tenants of Time and The End of the Hunt, both 4 star
Monica
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.
Ginny
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
Ruth
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read for history buffs, but a bit too much detail for the casual reader. It is well written about a compelling time in Irish history when Mayo rose up in rebellion with the help of the French. The year was 1798, and this was yet another ill-fated uprising in the long, sad history of Ireland. Flanagan goes into much detail about many of the actors in this clash with the British. You come away with a bit more understanding of how Ireland was kept under the heel of absentee landlords and a f ...more
Suzanne Hamilton
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to get through this book, not because I didn't like it but because I needed to turn away from the profoundly tragic story it tells from time to time. The novel recounts one minor event (a 1789 uprising abetted by the landing in Ireland of a French general and his small army) in the long history of the Irish struggle against the British. It presents the perspectives of several participants and observers. Prejudice and disdain for the 'other' are endemic; injustice and inequity ...more
Scott
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first read this great historical novel in the summer of 1981. That Fall my wife and I went to Ireland and made a point of visiting Killala before going on to Sligo.
After 36 years it was time to re-read it. It was even more powerful this time around. Having read Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels twice through made me more appreciative of Flanagan's achievement.
Other reviewers more eloquent than I have lauded the book quite ably so I won't attempt to compete with their comments.
As an Iris
...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

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.” 1 likes
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