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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1972: A Novel of Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution (Irish Century #4), by Morgan Llywelyn

Nine stars

Things are heating up in the fourth Irish independence novel by Morgan Llywelyn, pitting the British and Provisional IRA against one another over the six counties not ceded in 1921. Ursula Halloran has lived a decent life, trying to raise her son alone while filling him with true Irish values. Along the way, she has been able to offer up strong political views as well, though hoped that Barry would steer clear of the violence. Unable to help himself, Barry Halloran agrees to join and help the IRA in their attempts to force Northern Ireland to be turned over by the British Government. While discussions have not worked, it is time to let blood and gunfire fill the air, all for a united Ireland. While taking a trip to America, Barry learns a little more about the racial struggles there, drawing parallels between that and the Catholic situation in the North. While Barry is willing to make his mark on a small scale, the arrival of the 1960s spurns the whole world into a revolutionary sentiment, none more than in America. Watching the struggles between the races, Barry and those with strong independence views leave the IRA and form a provisional wing, all of whom will only be happy when Britain hands it over to the Irish Free State. When sentiments from 10 Downing and in Westminster are that they will only do so after the Protestant majority seek it, the Provisional IRA make their plans to resurrect a somewhat dormant revolutionary battlecry. With Barry in the middle of the action, there is little hope that he will remain unscathed. A brilliant build-up in the penultimate novel, as Llywelyn provides ample action to resolve in the final book. Perfect for series fans and those who love modern Irish history.

Morgan Llywelyn continues to show that there is no simple or straightforward answers with the Irish Question. In a strong, multi-generational series, Barry Halloran finally climbs into the spotlight, having been raised by a single mother. His passions surely develop under both the auspices of his mother’s varied sentiments about their homeland and how the world is drastically changing. Llywelyn addresses mass communication, as well as the sobering parallels that Barry has when he learns of race relations on a trip to America. When events and scenes from around the world are gathered on the television screen, Barry uses this and the ongoing push by the IRA to solve the six county dilemma to shape his political and societal views. Ready to take up the case—like his grandfather did in the early novels—Barry sees no answer without the thirty-two counties united once and for all. Many others grace the pages of this piece, historical figures and those created by Llywelyn, offering varied flavours to the complex narrative. The renewed push for an Irish revolution is not lost on the keen reader, though there is much going on around the world to help shape momentum in that direction. New ideas by the IRA may help lessen the violent impact, though there is little doubt that some prefer bloodshed over the gentleman’s handshake. The attentive reader will enjoy a mix of longer and quick chapters, offering much history and character development. I am eager to see how the series ends and what drama Llywelyn has in store for her readers.

Kudos, Madam Llywelyn, for keeping the various political and social adventures within the Irish Free State from losing their impact.

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

1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State (Ireland Century #3), by Morgan Llywelyn

Eight stars

In an Irish independence series that keeps getting better, Morgan Llywelyn lays further groundwork for readers to better understand the struggle and plight that pervaded much of the 20th century. In what would later be called the inter-war years, Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom are in a somewhat peaceable state. However, the thorn remains of Northern Ireland not being part of the independent Ireland, a theme not lost on the ever-maturing Ursula Halloran. After completing her studies, she leaves Ireland for a time before returning with a thirst to relay the news while promoting all that is Ireland. Securing a position at 2RN, the Irish National Broadcaster, Ursula begins to see the world’s reaction to the Irish question, as well as the build-up of European aggression with a few strong political leaders in Germany, Spain, and Italy. The IRA is still holding firm that it will stop at nothing while the North remains under British rule, but Ursula is not part of any formal plan to force the question. As Western leaders stand by and allow Hitler to march across the continent, claiming spoils without reaction, she cannot help but wonder if the sentiment would have been the same had Ireland tried this approach. After an accidental tryst leaves Ursula questioning her own integrity, she flees for Switzerland under the auspices of covering the League of Nations. War explodes across Europe and Ursula bears a son, nicknamed Barry. She wishes never to tell anyone of his father and remains stoic and vague, even when pressed. While Ireland stays neutral in the Second World War, there is a push to shake off the final shackles of British servitude; renunciation of their place in the Commonwealth. This will surely be the first item on the agenda when all fighting has been concluded. Once Ursula returns to her native Ireland and sets her sights on further independence, an apparent stranger darkens her door. Ned Halloran is back and very ill. He has come home to make amends with those with whom he created a schism during the Irish Civil War. Allowing Barry to meet and learn about his grandfather, Ursula can only hope that she will be as strong a fighter as her father came to be in the Irish fight for independence. Ireland stands as a Republic, but what is next on the agenda? Llywelyn presents another stunning tale not to be missed by those who enjoy the series, as well as readers with an interest in modern Irish history.

Morgan Llywelyn does well in this book again to show that things were anything but simple or straightforward with the Irish Question, leaving the reader to learn and ask some of the poignant questions. In what is becoming a true multi-generational series, Ursula Halloran takes the spotlight, having evolved from the orphaned Precious into a woman with both grit and determination as she seeks to fulfil more of the passions her ‘parents’ raised her to hold. Mixing the best attributes of Ned Halloran and Henry Mooney from the previous books, Ursula finds herself reporting the news and watching the world react to others who sought to turn their respective countries over in their own images, with little interference, especially by the British. Llywelyn contrasts this nicely with the Irish Question, both bluntly and subtly through Ursula’s thoughts and actions, a brilliant effort. Add to that the arrival of Barry and his veiled parentage, which is sure to propel the story forward in the fourth novel the series has to offer. Many others grace the pages of this piece, historical figures and those created by Llywelyn, offering varied flavours to the complex narrative. Llywelyn effectively builds the Irish sentiment throughout, leading to the 1949 declaration of its being a republic and no longer part of the Commonwealth. This novel was again a strong piece, full of history and great development, with a lighter feel to it. The attentive reader will enjoy a mix of longer and quick chapters. There is much to be learned in this neutral perspective as the world rushes to its own political and social fires. I am eager to see what comes next in this great series, sure to offer added twists and turns as history marches onwards.

Kudos, Madam Llywelyn, for never losing momentum in a century that saw a great deal of torment and maturity for the Irish Free State.

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

1921: A Novel of the Irish Civil War (Irish Century #2), by Morgan Llywelyn

Eight stars

Continuing her Irish independence series, Morgan Llywelyn dazzles readers with nuggets of history embedded around a strong narrative and compelling set of characters. While the Irish Rebellion did not go as well as expected, there are many who continue to push for full independence and recognition. While the reader learned much about Ned Halloran in the opening novel, he stood alongside Henry Mooney, whose rural upbringing helps offer a new and refreshing flavour of the Irish sentiment. Mooney, a journalist tied to the cause, has developed wonderful bonds with Ned and his wife, Síle, as well as the child Ned took in, Ursula, commonly called Precious. While the British Government promised Ireland Home Rule, they have dragged their feet, leading to the rise of ongoing angry sentiment and the mobilisation of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). When the Great War ends and the International Peace Conference is not prepared to extol the independence of Ireland, pressures force the American president and British House of Commons to take note and negotiations begin. However, the British are not willing to simply hand everything over and they propose a division. Ireland may have its home rule, but the Ulster (read: Protestant-strong) six counties in the North will remain under British control. This sends a united Irish front into a tailspin, as it would seem there is a new idea on the table. While Ned, Henry, and Síle watch, Irish sentiment is divided, leaving some ready to take the larger land as their own and claim victory, while others want all or nothing. With the Irish ‘Free State’ question settled, it is time to decide how to push forward with the Ulster portion. Britain pushes for acceptance of the Free State, while the IRA want the Ulster portion included, no questions asked. Civil War seems to be brewing mere months after seven centuries of British shackles are freshly removed. All eyes turn to Ireland, as it stands at a fork in the road. Accept the Free State or seek an entirely free Ireland, even if its citizens are not of one voice? Blood and destruction continue to rain down on all and Henry must come to see that life as a journalist is anything but predictable. Will he live to see Ireland free or will the blood flow through the streets, allowing Britain to crush any resistance yet again? Llywelyn offers another stunning tale that should not be missed by those who enjoyed the opening novel, as well as readers with an interest in modern Irish history.

Morgan Llywelyn continues to impress with her writing and ability to keep the reader involved in the story, balancing level-headed facts with the passion that violent confrontation brings. She is able to show that things were anything but simple or straightforward, leaving the reader to bask in the nuances. The introduction of Henry Mooney offers an interesting spin on the story, one the reader may enjoy. While the Hallorans remain firmly rooted in this piece, it is Henry’s journalistic perspective that thickens the plot as Ireland is faced with new and troublesome decisions. The reader learns much about the Mooney family, at least until Henry makes his way to Dublin, then there is little backstory to be had. However, Henry does develop effectively, bringing his own narrative to offset the larger Irish one being told throughout. The Hallorans also receive some more attention, with a focus on the grittier side of Ned and Síle as they attempt to push for the cause. Precious, still young, begins to come into her own and sheds the child-like moniker as she seeks to be taken a little more seriously. Many others grace the pages of this piece, historical figures and the like, offering their own flavour to the ever-evolving narrative that pits peaceful legislators seeking Irish independence and the more revolutionary side that will accept nothing less than a complete Ireland. Llywelyn effectively builds this throughout. This second novel was again a strong piece, full of history and great development, though it comes across as denser and more focused on the Cause for Irish autonomy. The attentive reader will see this in longer chapters and storylines that take a more serious approach. There is much to be learned in this highly important part of the Irish Century and one cannot fault Llywelyn for wanting to keep things a little heavier. I am eager to see what comes next in this explosive series, sure to have more twists and character development throughout.

Kudos, Madam Llywelyn, for keeping things going with wonderful history and twists to keep the personal side from being lost.

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

1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion (Ireland Century Series #1), by Morgan Llywelyn

Eight stars

With her debut novel in the Irish independence series, Morgan Llywelyn impresses readers with an attention to detail and easy narrative style. Aboard the Titanic, Ned Halloran and his family are on their way to America for a family wedding. When the boat hits an iceberg and sinks, many perish, leaving Ned an orphan. Ned arrives in New York to the astonishment of his sister, Kathleen, whose nuptials are overshadowed by the tragedy. As Ned is still a strapping teenager, he chooses to leave Kathleen and her new husband behind, returning to Ireland to finish his education. Sent to an Irish boarding school, Ned learns the ins and outs of his family ancestry, as well as the core values of the Irish people, including their history and language. All the while, the British House of Commons is dragging its feet around Irish Home Rule, keeping the citizens of the Emerald Isle in limbo. While being educated about the power of the Irish people, Ned discovers a passion for independence, willing to do whatever it takes to bring it to fruition. As he becomes friendly with those within the Volunteers, a group dedicated to Irish Independence, Ned becomes more passionate about an Ireland without Britain’s intervention. Irish Home Rule becomes a rallying cry on both sides of the Atlantic, where Kathleen has come to find herself feeling trapped with her American husband. After a scandalous encounter with the local Catholic priest, Kathleen is miserable and facing the wrath of her husband, who will not be made a fool. With the outbreak of the Great War, Irish nationals seek not to fight for King and Country, but would rather toss off British shackles and fight for their own homeland. Planning to take drastic action, an uprising is set in Dublin for April 1916. Ned aligns himself with others and hopes that the violence will be minimal to claim Ireland as an independent state, but the British are not yet ready to walk away and will use their own form of force to keep the Irish in line. Blood will be shed and Dublin will see its share of violence to ensure that Ireland’s future falls into the hands of its rightful owners. The question remains as to who that might be. A stellar beginning to the series by Llywelyn, which is sure to impress readers with an interest in historical fiction.

I enjoyed Llywelyn’s work a while back and thought that there would be no better time to reacquaint myself with Irish independence than the month in which its patron saint is celebrated. While there is little that can be simply explained surrounding Irish independence, Morgan Llywelyn does her best to pull the reader into the middle of this violent confrontation, offering an expected Irish leaning in her writing. Ned Halloran is a wonderful character whose importance rose throughout the novel. Coming of age with the death of his parents and formal education, Ned will surely remain a key player in the Irish rebellions, having already embedded himself into the core of the narrative. His sister, Kathleen, is sure to also have an ongoing role in the novels, working on the side of women’s rights and will likely play a role in exploring how they can help the Irish push for independence at a time when suffrage is gaining momentum. The narrative pulled me in from the opening pages, as the Hallorans found themselves in the middle of major historical events. It is likely that Llywelyn will use historical events as ongoing backdrops to help the reader contrast the ongoing rise of Irish independence sentiment through the series. I am eager to discover what else she has in store for the Hallorans and others who graced the pages of this series. With a mix of short and mid-length chapters, the reader is treated to a wonderful story that builds the further it progresses. Those who seek the full experience will want to get all fives novels ready, as the addictive nature all but demands a binge read.

Kudos, Madam Llywelyn, for a wonderful beginning to the series. I am intrigued where you will take things as you have history guiding us throughout the century. Let’s see which twists you have in store for us next.

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