1999: A Novel of the Celtic Tiger and the Search for Peace (Irish Century #5), by Morgan Llywelyn

Nine stars

In the final novel of her Irish Century series, Morgan Llywelyn offers readers a high-impact story that ties off much of the violence and political clashes that left the region stained in blood. Barry Halloran continues his life as a photojournalist, eager to capture Ireland as a whole while the North is still under British control. While the world advances through the years, it would seem that Anglo-Irish relations as it relates to uniting the thirty-two colonies has reached a standstill. Meanwhile, blood flows freely as both sides seek targeted attacks to prove their points. As Barry seeks to capture all the action, he has a family now and must stay close by to better understand the concerns in his own household. While Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, has begun secret talks to bring peace to fruition, there seems to be many individuals who will not be happy until violence drives the British out once and for all. The Hallorans have had a stake in the Irish Question for almost a century and the Troubles—the vernacular for these clashes—do not seem to be ending anytime soon. However, as the end of the millennium approaches, might there be a lasting peace on the horizon? Something that both sides can accept to end the senseless killing and sacrifice of innocent lives, divided by a religious conviction that is marinaded in political history? Llywelyn develops her story so effectively that the series reader will want to see how things play out, ending a powerful Irish Century.

So, there we have it. Five books that have not only spun a multi-generational tale of power and passion, but a country seeking to rid itself of foreign shackles as it limps towards a lasting independence. Morgan Llywelyn has done so well to keep the reader enthralled, while still painting a narrative full of struggle and pain. Barry Halloran again holds the protagonist role, having turned in much of his gun arsenal for a camera to capture the struggles in the North. He is still firmly republican and will stop at nothing to bring the final six counties back to their rightful place with the Irish Free State. Democracy can only go so far, it would seem, so Barry is using all his connections to push for a final solution. Ignoring his wife and family when he is wrapped up in Belfast’s ongoing strife, Barry is left to fight a war on the home front, not helped by his mother, Ursula, whose sage advice stings as much as a bullet wound at times. Other characters grace the pages and show just how complex and troublesome the Irish peace process can be. It is less the politicians who are creating issues—though Llewelyn depicts them as slow to seek lasting solutions—but the splinter groups and British Army who seek violence first and answers later. Llywelyn develops this violent narrative well, placing much of it as announcements from the historical record. The novel ties things off, especially the rejuvenated clashes that have peppered the history books throughout the 1960s and 70s, but built up again throughout the 1980s, a time I remember well. While Llewelyn is using a fiction-based delivery, her story is full of history and Irish-flavoured depictions of events as the struggle to bring peace to Ireland remains all but a done deal throughout. The series using five novels to bring the story to the forefront, impacting the attentive reader with the struggles while weaving together a family’s own personal clashes with staying together as the land they so love is jostled. Morgan Llewelyn is a masterful writer and has shown that she knows her stuff. Anyone with an interest in the Irish Question ought to find this series and devour it, as the writing flows so well and will keep the reader captivated.

Kudos, Madam Llywelyn, for keeping Ireland relevant throughout. A perfect read in the lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day, though history is wonderful no matter the date!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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