“Being right is cold comfort when the whole world is wrong”
In November 1917, Victor Lennon receives the summons he’s been avoiding for ten years. While he’s been fighting for a communist republic in the Dublin Lockout and Easter Rising, his father has been drinking the family wealth. The dogmatic local bishop Benedict sends for the young man, bringing hardened and cynical politics into a thus-far tranquil village and ends up with much more of a revolutionary than he can handle. Victor helps his father back onto his feet, fixes up the farm, and falls back in love with his childhood sweetheart. If only Ida Harte would step out of the story…
McCann renders 1917 country Ireland well, with simple supporting characters and an undeniably strong sense of community in the village folk of Madden. The key characters, Benedict and Victor, are forcefully and diametrically opposed in their opinions, but have critical flaws of character which render both quite unsympathetic.
The narrative drags at first; almost the first third of the book was devoted to exposition and character description before Victor returns to Madden. I understand the need to give Victor a certain history and show the reader just how committed he is to the revolution, but it became dull rather quickly.
I did not finish this book; the combination of a very slow start and unsympathetic characters – Victor seems to bring all his trouble upon himself, philandering and politicising – made it a dull read for me. Those with a stronger interest in the era or more patience with stubborn, opinionated, womanising protagonists would enjoy it more.