In the third installment of this multigenerational family saga, World War I brings changes for the Winship family as James Winship returns to his roots to champion Irish home rule.
After a fairly pointless preface, in which Winston and Randolph Churchill discuss James’ death on the eve of World War II, McCarthy relates, with his usual page-turning élan, the events leading up to that point. Star-crossed lovers Cornelia and Brendan finally get back together, but life continues to conspire against them; meanwhile, Brendan’s brother William and his wife Anne have a child. Both Brendan and William eventually find themselves in the trenches of World War I, and James quits the Liberal Party for the Irish Party over the stalled home rule legislation. The Sudburys again harass the Winships; they nearly destroy James’ political career by paying a prostitute to frame him and later make an attempt on other family members’ lives. As usual, McCarthy’s effortless combination of real and imagined characters will send readers to the history books to sort out who’s who; this time, he adds Irish Republican leaders Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins to the mix. And, as always, he rewards readers with vivid, visceral action scenes, including assassination attempts, harrowing escapes and trench warfare: “Men were falling back down the trench, cut to pieces, dead or badly maimed. [Brendan]could feel his heart racing and, for a moment, thought he was going to faint. Then he heard Smith shouting over the din, ‘Let’s go, sir. We’re up.’ ” This final installment is a satisfying wrap-up of the saga, filled with engaging, empathetic and realistic characters. In a smooth, logical progression, it bounces easily from one character’s tale to the next—and from one momentous world event to another.
A well-written, action-packed climax to an excellent work of historical fiction.