THE EMANCIPIST by Veronica Geoghegan Sweeney


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An egregiously lengthy (1,048 pgs.), low-calorie period saga featuring the uphill climb of Aiden O'Brien, product of the general misery of the Irish peasantry in the mid-19th century, who's unjustly transported to a convict colony in Australia, eventually to make good in status and lucre--but not in love, at least until the close. It's in 1829 that the good, enlightened William Kelly, master of the estate of Tineranna, invites the peasant lad Aiden into his home to be educated with his son Devlin. Devlin is a fanged wimp who is cruel to animals and even steals Aiden's beloved dog. And Devlin ripens with the years into even darker doings: he causes the death of Aiden's gentle stepfather and forces Anna, the girl Aiden loves to distraction, to marry him in the wake of the potato famine and the evictions. (Aiden screams down the road behind the carriage carrying Anna away, finally crashing to the roadway in despair.) Soon after, Aiden joins a ""free Ireland"" brotherhood, but he is not responsible for the murder for which he'll be transported. Before the hideous voyage to Australia, he marries Maura, a sour, witchy piece, who's always been jealous of Anna. Down Under, Aiden is given the proud-convict treatment--bloodied, put in solitary, but not unbowed. He escapes, makes friends and enemies, is recaptured, recognized for his true worth, and eventually gets his pardon (delayed, thanks to you-know-who), after which, in Tasmania and on the mainland, Aiden is finally on his way, via lumbering, real estate, etc. Maura arrives to join him with their children, Liam and Clemency, but most of the time Aiden gets the cold marital shoulder. In the meantime there's tough Matty for happy sex, and True Love (unrequited) for a friend's daughter, Berrima, who reminds him of the lost Anna (but Berrima won't leave her unhappy marriage). After Maura's death Aiden takes on a passel: springing his son Liam from an Irish jail for Fenian activities and his daughter Clemency from a convent; guarding the secret of his convict past; and wearing down the now-widowed Berrima, who wants something special. At last arrives Devlin and Anna's son William (Anna is dead) and Devlin the Divil for a Last Blast. With too scantily probed characters, and thin ambiance, a routine matinee melodrama, which sliced and beefed up with flesh might fill out a soap season or two on the box.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Simon & Schuster