Friends from opposite sides unite during Ireland's Easter Rising, 1916.
Twelve-year-olds Emer and Jack are part of a gang of children growing up on the same middle-class street in Dublin. They share a platonic but very close friendship despite their families' radically different political views. Emer's father, an officer in the rebel group the Irish Volunteers, strongly supports the cause of Irish independence from Great Britin, while Jack's father, a Dublin police officer, believes Ireland should remain loyal to the crown. Irish casualties in what is seen as an English fight—World War I—add stress to both sides, and on Easter Monday, 1916, Emer's father joins in armed battle against Jack's. Emer proudly joins the Volunteers as a runner—until she learns that Jack's dad has been captured and is slated to die. Gallagher floats between Jack’s and Emer's points of view, carefully and somewhat leisurely painting a nuanced portrait of the arguments for and against Home Rule. This occupies the first two-thirds of the book, which takes place over five months, which then switches into action mode for the last 60 pages, which take place over two days. He lets readers draw their own conclusions about the political issues while showing that friendship remains more important than law.
A lovely and well-written novel whose appeal stateside may be limited by American readers' unfamiliarity with this historic event. (Historical fiction. 8-14)