Saturday, 26 March 2016

Ireland 1916 Recommended Reads - Non-Fiction, Fiction and Children's Fiction

EASTER 1916 SPECIAL



With a huge range of books available on the subject of Ireland's journey to becoming a Republic,  just how can you know which book to buy?  Every bookshop in the land has an array of titles, usually on a tri-coloured themed stand and every newspaper has a selection of reviews in their commemorative weekend specials.  I am by no means an expert but have a longstanding love of Irish History and have read many, many 1916 based titles over the years.  The younger readers at Bleach House have also become well-read on the subject and have thrown their favourites into the mix.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the Rebellion Reads we believe are worth checking out...


++ Please not that some titles may have special edition covers and the ones represented below are the editions that we have read.



Non-Fiction



The Irish Times Book of The 1916 Rising by Shane Hegarty and Fintan O'Toole.
  
This heavily illustrated book focuses on the events of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, rather than the background and the consequences. In a widely expanded version of the supplement that appeared in The Irish Times in March to commemorate the 90th Anniversary, The 1916 Rising recreates the actual course of events during that tumultuous week, based on contemporary witnesses, memoirs and later recollections. It adds up to the most comprehensive and accessible account of Easter Week in print.




When The Clock Struck in 1916; Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising by Derek Molynuex

'Well, I've helped to wind up the clock, I might as well hear it strike.' Michael Joseph O'Rahilly The Easter Rising of 1916 was a seminal moment in Ireland's turbulent history. For the combatants it was a no-holds-barred clash: the professional army of an empire against a highly motivated, well-drilled force of volunteers. What did the men and women who fought on the streets of Dublin endure during those brutal days after the clock struck on 24 April 1916? For them, the conflict was a mix of bloody fighting and energy-sapping waiting, with meagre supplies of food and water, little chance to rest and the terror of imminent attacks. The experiences recounted here include those of: 20-year-old Sean McLoughlin who went from Volunteer to Captain to Commandant-General in five days: his cool head under fire saved many of his comrades; volunteer Robert Holland, a sharpshooter who continued to fire despite punishing rifle recoil; Volunteer Thomas Young's mother, who acted as a scout, leading a section through enemy-infested streets; the 2/7th Sherwood Foresters NCO who died when the grenade he threw at Clanwilliam House bounced off the wall and exploded next to his head; 2nd Lieutenant Guy Vickery Pinfield of the 8th Royal Hussars, who led the charge on the main gate of Dublin Castle and became the first British officer to die in the Rising. This account of the major engagements of Easter Week 1916 takes us onto the shelled and bullet-ridden streets of Dublin with the foot soldiers on both sides of the conflict, into the collapsing buildings and through the gunsmoke.





1916: What The People Saw by Mick O'Farrell


When the rebellion of 1916 had ended, more than 400 people were dead and over 2,000 wounded. More than half of these were civilians, but even for those civilians who were not direct casualties, the Rising was one of the most momentous experiences of their lives. The accounts that Mick O'Farrell has collected come from letters, diaries, extracts from otherwise unrelated biographies, and contemporary magazine and newspaper articles. Some common themes are present in the accounts. For instance, a fear of going hungry, which resulted in constant, and dangerous, attempts to stock up with supplies. There was also a grim realisation (despite two years of World War) that war had arrived on their doorstep: 'We know a bit what War is like now'. For some, there was even an undeniable element of excitement - one witness writes that 'now that it's over, none of us would've missed it for the world'. After watching a woman shot in the street, another witness notes that he 'saw a man rush out and take a snapshot'. Elsewhere, there are 'crowds looking on as if at a sham battle'. For most, however, it was the kind of excitement they could do without: Complementing the many historical accounts of the rising and statements from the participants, this book gives a real flavour of what it was like to live through history in the making.




A Nation And Not A Rabble by Diarmaid Ferriter.

Packed with violence, political drama and social and cultural upheaval, the years 1913-1923 saw the emergence in Ireland of the Ulster Volunteer Force to resist Irish home rule and in response, the Irish Volunteers, who would later evolve into the IRA. World War One, the rise of Sinn Féin, intense Ulster unionism and conflict with Britain culminated in the Irish war of Independence, which ended with a compromise Treaty with Britain and then the enmities and drama of the Irish Civil War.

Drawing on an abundance of newly released archival material, witness statements and testimony from the ordinary Irish people who lived and fought through extraordinary times, A Nation and not a Rabbleexplores these revolutions. Diarmaid Ferriter highlights the gulf between rhetoric and reality in politics and violence, the role of women, the battle for material survival, the impact of key Irish unionist and republican leaders, as well as conflicts over health, land, religion, law and order, and welfare.



To Speak Of Easter Week: Family Memories Of The Irish Revolution by Helene O'Keeffe.

This book offers a broad and human perspective on the Easter Rising and its aftermath, using oral history recordings from the families of those involved and adding something new and unique to the wealth of material about 1916 already on the market. 'To Speak of Easter Week' draws on interviews recorded by Maurice O'Keeffe for the Irish Life and Lore Series. Based on the testimonies of the sons and daughters of the rebels, their granddaughters, grandsons and other close relatives, the book examines the very human legacy of Easter Week and looks at the different ways in which the family members have internalised and attempted to make sense of the actions of their antecedents. James Connolly's great-grandson and Eamonn Ceannt's grand-niece, Kathleen Clarke's niece and Con Colbert's nephew, among many others, trace their family history from 1916 through the generations down to the present, and examine the multi-layered meaning of their shared heritage. They tell their stories in their own unique voices, speaking of the pride and the glory, the grief and the agony, the loss and the very real burden of history.




Fatal Path by Ronan Fanning.

This is a magisterial narrative of the most turbulent decade in Anglo-Irish history: a decade of unleashed passions that came close to destroying the parliamentary system and to causing civil war in the United Kingdom. It was also the decade of the cataclysmic Great War, of an officers' mutiny in an elite cavalry regiment of the British Army and of Irish armed rebellion. It was a time, argues Ronan Fanning, when violence and the threat of violence trumped democratic politics.
This is a contentious view. Historians have wished to see the events of that decade as an aberration, as an eruption of irrational bloodletting. And they have have been reluctant to write about the triumph of physical force. Fanning argues that in fact violence worked, however much this offends our contemporary moral instincts. Without resistance from the Ulster Unionists and its very real threat of violence the state of Northern Ireland would never have come into being. The Home Rule party of constitutionalist nationalists failed, and were pushed aside by the revolutionary nationalists Sinn Fein.
Bleakly realistic, ruthlessly analytical of the vacillation and indecision displayed by democratic politicians at Westminster faced with such revolutionary intransigence, Fatal Path is history as it was, not as we would wish it to be.




16 Dead Men: The Easter Rising Executions by Anne-Marie Ryan.

Sixteen men were executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in Ireland, 1916: fifteen were shot and one was hanged. Their deaths changed the course of Irish history. But who were these leaders who set in motion events that would lead to the creation of an independent Ireland? Teachers, poets, trade unionists, a shopkeeper and a farmer, the executed leaders of the Easter Rising were a diverse group. This book contains fascinating accounts of the life stories of these men and recounts the events that brought each of them to rebellion in April 1916.

All these stories are compiled for the first time in one volume, making it an ideal overview for the history enthusiast and a good introduction for the general reader.



Easter Widows by  Sinéad McCoole.

One week in May 1916, seven Irish women became widows. When they had married their husbands they had embarked on very different lives. They married men of the establishment; one married a lecturer, two others married soldiers, another a civil servant. These women all knew each other and their lives became intertwined. 

For the seven women whose stories are told in Easter Widows, their husbands’ interest in Irish culture, citizenship and rights became a fight for independence which at Easter 1916 took the form of military action against the British. These men were among the leaders who formed a provisional government of the Irish Republic and issued a proclamation of Irish Independence.
But the Rising was defeated, and the leaders were arrested and hastily executed. Some of the widows broke under the strain of their experiences and this story tells of miscarriage and tragedy. Yet for another of the women, the execution of her husband allowed her to return from self-imposed exile, freed from the fear that her son would be taken from her by her estranged husband. 
This is also a story of women of power and success – some of the widows emerged from the shadows to become leaders themselves. It is a human story told against the backdrop of the years of conflict in Ireland 1916-1923 - the Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. 
Easter Widows introduces all the characters separately through the romances of these seven women – Lillie, Maud, Kathleen, Aine, Agnes, Grace, Muriel – before bringing their stories together in a cohesive narrative. These interlinking stories are clearly embedded in an authentic historical account.



Fiction



A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle.

Born in the Dublin slums of 1901, his father a one-legged whorehouse bouncer and settler of scores, Henry Smart has to grow up fast. By the time he can walk he's out robbing and begging, often cold and always hungry, but a prince of the streets. By Easter Monday, 1916, he's fourteen years old and already six-foot-two, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army. A year later he's ready to die for Ireland again, a rebel, a Fenian and a killer. With his father's wooden leg as his weapon, Henry becomes a Republican legend - one of Michael Collins' boys, a cop killer, an assassin on a stolen bike.



Fallen by Lia Mills.


A remarkable love story amidst the ruins of the First World War and the Easter Rising
Spring, 1915. Katie Crilly gets the news she dreaded: her beloved twin brother, Liam, has been killed on the Western Front.
A year later, when her home city of Dublin is suddenly engulfed in violence, Katie finds herself torn by conflicting emotions. Taking refuge in the home of a friend, she meets Hubie Wilson, a friend of Liam's from the Front. There unfolds a remarkable encounter between two young people, both wounded and both trying to imagine a new life. Lia Mills has written a novel that can stand alongside the works of Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker and Louisa Young.



Citizens by Kevin Curran

Citizens is a gripping account of a modern-day character discovering his great-grandfather's memoir of 1916 Dublin. The diary brings him back to the turbulent years surrounding the formation of the Irish State. A timeless story of lost love and broken dreams that brilliantly counterpoints today's globalised generation with Ireland's nationalist revolutionaries of 1916, Citizens creates a conversation across a century in a unique novel that has echoes of Don DeLillo's Libra (Penguin, 1989) and Transatlantic (Bloomsbury, 2014) by Colum McCann.




Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna.

With the threat of the First World War looming, tension simmers under the surface of Ireland.

Growing up in the privileged confines of Dublin’s leafy Rathmines, the bright, beautiful Gifford sisters Grace, Muriel and Nellie kick against the conventions of their wealthy Anglo-Irish background and their mother Isabella’s expectations. Soon, as war erupts across Europe, the spirited sisters find themselves caught up in their country’s struggle for freedom. 

Muriel falls deeply in love with writer Thomas MacDonagh, artist Grace meets the enigmatic Joe Plunkett – both leaders of 'The Rising' – while Nellie joins the Citizen Army and bravely takes up arms, fighting alongside Countess Constance Markievicz in the rebellion. 

On Easter Monday, 1916, the biggest uprising in Ireland for two centuries begins. The world of the Gifford sisters and everyone they hold dear will be torn apart in a fight that is destined for tragedy.




What Becomes Of Us by Henrietta McKervey.

When Maria Mills flees London with only a suitcase and her young daughter, she is intent on a new life. To hide from her past, she has carefully constructed a story based on a lie even her child believes is true.
It is 1965 and Dublin is a city on the cusp of change. As the country prepares to commemorate the 1916 Rising, Maria meets Tess McDermott, a former member of Cumann na mBan. Tess saw active service during the Rising and Maria soon realises that she, too, is closely guarding a secret.
Set against the backdrop of stifling social mores alongside a defiant new wave of women's liberation, What Becomes of Us is a beautifully told story of the delicate balance between risk and survival, of nationhood and of the struggle to carve out a new identity when the past refuses to let go.


Children's Fiction

The Easter Rising 1916: Molly's Diary by Patricia Murphy.

Easter 1916. The Great War rages in Europe with two hundred thousand Irishmen fighting in the British Army. But a small group of Irish nationalists refuse to fight for Britain and strike a blow for Irish freedom. Caught up in the action in Dublin, is twelve-year-old Molly O’Donovan. 


Her own family is plunged into danger on both sides of the conflict. Her father, a technical officer with the Post Office dodges the crossfire as he tries to restore the telegraph lines while her wayward brother runs messages for the rebels. Molly a trained First Aider, risks her own safety to help the wounded on both sides. 



As violence and looting erupts in the streets of Dublin alongside heroism and high ideals, Molly records it all. The Proclamation at the GPO, the battle of Mount Street, the arrival of the British Troops. But will Molly’s own family survive and will she be able to save her brother? 



This is her diary. 




The Rising Son by Brian Kirk.

It’s 2016 and Jack O’Connor, a twelve-year-old London boy, is confused. He is left in the care of a grandfather he never met in a city he doesn’t know by his mother who wants to be left alone. While in Dublin, in his grandfather’s house, Jack is drawn to an old blanket. The blanket belonged to his late grandmother and seems to have magic powers.

It is the week of the centenary of the 1916 Rising and Jack’s grandfather sets out to teach him some history. In doing so he awakens in Jack a sense of his Irish identity. Thanks to the magic of the blanket Jack gets to see the events of the Rising first-hand and, at the same time, he uncovers the truth about his own family, past and present.




The Guns Of Easter by Gerard Whelan.

It is 1916 and Europe is at war. From the poverty of the Dublin slums twelve-year-old Jimmy Conway sees it all as glorious, and loves the British Army for which his father is fighting. But when war comes to his own streets Jimmy's loyalties are divided. The rebels occupy the General Post Office and other parts of the city, and Jimmy's uncle is among them. Dublin's streets are destroyed, business comes to a halt. In an attempt to find food for his family, Jimmy crosses the city, avoiding the shooting, weaving through the army patrols, hoping to make it home before curfew. But his quest is not easy and danger threatens at every corner.



Countess Markievicz: An Adventurous Life by Ann Carroll

This is the story of Constance Gore-Booth born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family. She joined the fight for Irish freedom. She fought in the Easter Rising and was later sentenced to death but, because she was a woman, she imprisoned for life instead. This is her story. 




All the featured titles were chosen purely on a personal-choice basis.  No author/publisher was favoured and blurbs were taken from amazon.ie.  The majority of books can be ordered with Free Worldwide Postage from Kennys.ie.  

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