Award-winning novelist of Irish history Thomas Flanagan (The Tenants of Time, 1988, etc.) sets his new novel, as densely packed and relentlessly thorough as usual, in the turbulent 1920's, an era whose legacy lingers today in strife-ridden Northern Ireland. The complex story is told in alternating chapters by such characters as Patrick Prentiss, a barrister who lost his arm fighting for the British in World War I; Janice Nugent, a young Irish widow whose husband died fighting at Gallipoli; Christopher Blake, a historian and soon Janice's lover; and the mysterious Frank Lacy, a ruthless soldier whose bedtime reading is Virgil. As is typical in docufiction, a slew of real characters such as Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, and Eamon De Valera, speaking often in their own words or at least uttering sentiments in keeping with their reputations, make numerous appearances to add gravitas to the narrative. Beginning in the spring of 1918, members of Sinn Fein, survivors of the 1916 Uprising, and supporters of Irish Independence form the Irish Republican Army and begin a war that is fought on all sides with ruthless ferocity. The notorious British ``Black and Tans'' are just as savage as the IRA in mounting ambushes, exacting reprisals, and burning enemy houses. As the war continues, Frank Lacy achieves stunning military successes, Christopher Blake does brilliant intelligence work, while Prentiss and Nugent observe and comment from the sidelines. The story, though, is dominated by the legendary and beloved Michael Collins, a man of a thousand disguises and daring ruses. For signing an accord with Britain in 1921 establishing the Irish Free State, Collins is regarded as a traitor by diehard Republicans and is assassinated. A nasty little war with even nastier consequences, deftly described with enough details to satisfy those who prefer their history lightly spritzed with fiction.

Pub Date: April 7, 1994

ISBN: 0-525-93681-5

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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