AN EXCESS OF LOVE by Cathy Cash Spellman


Email this review


Another saga-sized slog from the author of So Many Partings (1983)--this time centered on the Irish Troubles, 1897-1920s, with billboard heroics and tinny celebrity cameos. In County Sligo the Fitzgibbon family, of privileged class, is more or less swept up into the Cause of Irish rebellion against the governing English and Anglo-Irish. Young Constance (""Con"") falls head over heels for fisherman's son Tierney O'Connor, a lad with ""the Sight"" and big dreams: he aspires to be poetic Minstrel Boy of the movement for Irish national unity. But while they marry, Con's sympathetic sister Beth is herself locked into a gilded marital cage as wife of Edmond, autocratic peasant-oppressor and father of four (mean Winston, twins Merry and Jamie, soon-crippled Angelica); later, however, Beth self-liberates, coupling secretly with legendary Fenian, Seaneen O'Sullivan--who fathers her son John, a future IRA-man. And the third sibling, brother Desmond, is headed straight for gun-running. . . and execution. Family conflicts soon proliferate, of course. Tierney, encouraged by Yeats (""Incendiary as brimstone, but damned good work!""), must choose between Art and full commitment to the Brotherhood headed by Seaneen. (Con, writing anonymously as the ""Wild Harp,"" strums on in his place.) In later years Tierney is tortured and executed by the British; Con has a murderous session in the clink while working for women's rights, takes to the barricades, and sacrifices her own life to save Beth--who, with Seaneen, tries to rescue Con from prison. Later still, after the Republican Proclamation and the Rising, Con's son Tahg fights on, going to prison; he becomes the rival of his cousin Winston in wooing actress Kitty; Win, meanwhile, is villainously stalking Michael Collins--while plotting an equally violent end for Tahg. And the rest of the family is similarly enflamed: Angelica, after witnessing the rape of Merry and Kitty by British soldiers, does her own plotting; John, now living with Seaneen and Beth (who has left Edmond), is a whiz at explosives. Etc. Etc. Mulligan stew, flat and messy--without the Irish-American angle that helped to make So Many Partings reasonably commercial.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1985
Publisher: Delacorte