Complete with footnotes and bibliography, Llywelyn continues her historical series about Ireland’s striving to tear itself from England.
Again, Llywelyn follows that history in novels named after years selected as turning points in the unfinished revolution (1916, 1921, 1949, now 1972—and who knows where it will all end). With no attempt at lyric prose, the author nonetheless gets a lilt to her characters, who seem almost song-driven by their own voices, which are most intense at war or love. Llywelyn catches echoes of Dos Passos’s U.S.A. as she lifts and dramatizes events from newspapers and also from her own family history. Alas, of Dos Passos’s inventiveness she has none. In 1949, Swiss-educated Urusla Halloran returned to become Ireland’s first woman broadcaster but later found herself pregnant (by dull Father Cassidy or dashing Lewis Banes: She doesn’t know which), went back to Geneva and had baby Barry. Now Barry’s coming of age focuses the story on his joining the IRA and becoming a photographer, then moves forward through bombs and squabbles between Irish factions to Bloody Sunday in Derry and to Barry abandoning his peaceful hopes and again taking up a rifle. As the multi-novel nears our own age, the reader draws more deeply into the flow of events and the characters.
The years whistle by with joy and gunpowder.