THE TENANTS OF TIME by Thomas Flanagan
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Flanagan's bulky, maudlin reconstruction of the 1867 Fenian uprising, as seen through the recollections of its long-forgotten participants. The author's opaque, memory-basked tone is established right at the start when Patrick Prentiss, arriving in 1904 in the small village of Kilpeder, attempts to piece together events leading up to the uprising 37 years earlier. Prentiss lives in the shadow of those events. Organized in 1858, the Fenians as an underground movement sought to gain Irish independence from England through armed conflict. Backed up by pockets of supporters in the US, led by James Stephens, but denounced by the Church, the movement suffered a hammer blow when British troops moved in in '67 to quell a poorly prepared and badly supplied uprising. But Prentiss is interested in drawing out the details of how the uprising touched the lives of characters involved far down the chain of command from James Stephens: Ned Nolan, a trained soldier imported from the States to coordinate the ragtag rural troops; Bob Delaney, a strategist who after incarceration carries the flame into above-ground politics; and, most important, Hugh McMahon, the reflective village schoolmaster. Flanagan's story truly belongs to McMahon, a nonrevolutionary temperament caught up in a violent struggle. It is primarily McMahon's quiet-man view from the sidelines that balances the central historical act here--an arms raid on the local garrison--with personal observation, wry humor and, of course, a touch of the blarney. A logical follow-up to Flanagan's dramatization of the 1798 Irish Revolution, The Year of the French: whopping, rather foggy better-value-by-the-pound historical fiction aimed straight at the upper-middle brow.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1987
Publisher: Dutton