Monday, 12 September 2016

Book Review - 'The Memory of Music' by Olive Collins.



Ireland 2016 and Isabel is approaching her 100th Birthday.  Born during the Easter Rising, she has lived through some of the country's most turbulent times.  The daughter of a spirited woman and gifted violin-maker, the memories come to life when she hears the music of her past.  

Dublin 1916 and Betty is about to give birth, alone.  Irish rebels are taking over the city and she fears for her husband's safety.  Huddled in a tenement building, close to the GPO, she vows to improve her circumstances, with or without her husband's consent.  

Ireland's battle for Independence has been the subject of many novels in  recent months.  The brave men and women of our nation have been re-worked into some fine narratives and every child in the country celebrated this years centenary.  Olive Collins has added on something extra by bringing the story forward.  From the Rebellion, subsequent executions and treaty negotiations through to the end of civil war and its bitter aftermath.  She uses Betty, Isabel and their extended family to show how determination can sometimes lead to despair.  Betty's husband Seamus is a gifted man, full of musical talent and is an unparalleled creator of  exquisite violins. However, his Republican values outweigh his love of his personal life and he becomes increasingly distant from his family.  Late night visits, hidden arms and secret societies become the norm and Betty fears for her future.  Her hardened determination results in her own secrets.  As the years slip by,  the female descendants of Betty are unaware of the murky details of their matriarch's early years, until the discovery of some hidden letters...

Historical fiction can sometimes be weighed down by the authors research and the characters can become victims of their historical relevance.  This is not so with The Memory of Music.  While it is obvious that the author has an intensive knowledge of 20thC Irish History, especially the years surrounding our desire to break from English rule, she does not drown the reader with facts.  Rather, she gives enough detail to relate the characters to their situations and leaves the reader with a taster that may result in further research, if desired.  A teaser, if you like.  The writing is fluid and clear, with the novel split into three parts; the first part centered around the events of 1916, the second on Treaty negotiations and the War of Independence, whilst the final part leads the novel towards current times.  There are a gaggle of female, cross-generational characters in part three and I found myself struggling to retain their relevance to Seamus and Betty's story.  The idea of discovered letters is nothing new, but add in some torn photos and antique violins and furniture and it ups the game.  This is a great read, ideal for fans of Marita Conlon-McKenna's Rebel Sisters or RTÉ's recent TV drama, Rebellion.  A very worthy debut, ideally timed for the 1916 centenary celebrations and the upcoming anniversary of the War of Independence.  

The Memory of Music is published by Poolbeg Press and is available in TPB and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with 30% discount, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:



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