The last days of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, told with leisure and grace.
Between the Easter Rising of 1916 (when the Irish declared independence) and the Partition of 1922 (when the British grudgingly recognized it) were stretched unrest, terrorism, and what was akin to a civil war as the Irish fought among themselves over their political destiny. Here, we watch these events from the perspective of the Anglo-Irish gentry—the most privileged and (during these years, at least) also the most unfortunate class of Irish society. Based on the reminiscences of her grandmother, Davis-Goff (This Cold Country, 2002, etc.) describes the arrival in Ireland of ten-year-old Alice Monroe, whose parents sent her from WWI London to the relative safety of Ballydavid, her grandmother’s estate in Waterford. The Bagnolds (Alice’s mother’s family) are Protestants of English descent, but Ballydavid has been their home for more than three centuries, and they consider themselves Irish rather than English. Unfortunately for them, few Irish Catholics would agree, and so young Alice has the surreal experience of going through the motions of daily life—tennis parties, social calls, trips to Dublin—in the shadow not only of the war in France but of a deeper terror much closer to home. The usual gossip of friends and neighbors includes rumors of arms shipments from Germany along with speculations on crops and the weather, and the older scandals of adultery and divorce have been supplanted by the betrayals of Irish Protestants (like Roger Casement or Yeats) going over to the nationalist cause. The world is always strange for a child—but for Alice Moore, growing up in a stately home that could be burned to the ground any day, the strangeness is well grounded in reality.
A rich, impressionistic account, in an old-fashioned style, of a dying world in the last hours before sunset.