Presented by the publisher as a novel of the Irish ""Civil War of the 1640s,"" this short tale is sure to bewilder...



Presented by the publisher as a novel of the Irish ""Civil War of the 1640s,"" this short tale is sure to bewilder readers--until they realize that it's actually set in 1922, when Republicans (opposed to ""the Treaty"") switched from battling the British to battling their fellow Irishmen, the pro-Treaty Free Starers. Two Republicans--an embittered veteran named Tidg, a mere lad named Art--escape from a British prison-ship off the coast of Ireland, swimming to shore and heading on foot to join Republican forces in Ballyshannon in Donegal. After digging up a cache of hidden weapons, they run into a pair of Royal Ulster Constables; Tidg kills the younger of the two, taking the older one as hostage/prisoner for the trek. But as the journey progresses--Art failing ill from fever, the hopelessness of the Republican cause becoming impossible to ignore--the quietly forceful constable becomes at least as commanding as fanatic Tidg: he gently argues for compromise and non-violence, urges young Art to abandon the trek, demonstrates his own brand of decency and loyalty. . . and reveals that the murdered young constable was his son. So, when Tidg and Art stubbornly continue on towards certain execution by Free Staters in Ballyshannon, the constable (now freed) stubbornly comes along too: ""To watch you die by your own kind."" And indeed, the constable will last be seen dragging the two Republicans' bodies, declaring ""Now I'm a hostage of the dead."" Too portentous and contrived in its parable style, with awkward use of occasional first-person narration--but there's a nugget of real power in the central notion: a relentless trek towards certain death for a hopeless cause.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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