Picking up where he left off in civil-wax-torn Strumpet City (1969), Irish Plunkett takes three childhood friends from the Easter Rising--the establishment of the Irish Free State--to WW II maturity. Yes, once again we're given, at great length, ravished, conflicted Ireland as a moral backdrop, with individual direction caught up in and contrasted with national destiny. Thoughtful Tim McDonagh is reared in the world of First Communions, wakes, pubs, and extended families--he'll drift, rather unconvincingly, into priesthood. Brian Moloney is irreverent, rebellious, kept from a medical career by a provincial father who chains him to the pub business, to Republican politics. And Des Cunningham is the doomed friend, the card: tobacco, women, and an RAF demise. Plunkett fills up his episodic cross-cuts with all the right echoes--Joycean give-and-take, heady pub-talk, songs, slogans, headlines, brooding adolescents, ironic and poetic elders (the neighborhood eccentric, O'Sheehan, is a fount of Irish history and poetry: ""I am Ireland""). But it would take enormous energy or a singular voice to inject new vigor into the familiar Ireland-England, church-street, violent-nonviolent Dublin dilemmas; neither Plunkett's eclectic, educational narrative nor the lives of these three companions and their families can do much more than drift along into a well-intentioned, inoffensive bog.