Friday, 1 August 2008

The year of the French by Thomas Flanagan

Story of the attempt by Ireland in 1798 to follow in the footsteps of the successful revolutions of the USA and French. The Catholic and Protestant middle classes united to throw out the English aristocracy and create a republic of legally free citizens.

We follow through the eyes of different sections of society- protestant landowners, catholic gentry, English land agents, Irish farmers, landless peasants etc the trigger for the revolt and its tragic course as the revolt is aided by the French.

The weakness of the middle classes, and its reliance on the Irish peasants who want a Celtic Ireland free of all landlords tragically undermine the rebellion with serious consequences. Ireland looses its political independence for an 100 years and its Irish culture. And the failure of the French leaves the way open to the rise of Bonaparte as a key political General looses the ability to counter his rise to power.

Its not a dry historical account or an historical romance. The book uses live action with a range of letters, journals, histories etc to build up the complexity of motives, views of both sides so you the reader are involved as a judge of history to weigh up the whole picture rather then the myths of all sides.

I would recommend it but the different narrative formats require a concentration and can drag in places but if you pursue to the end it comes together in a grand sad ferocious sweep of a maybe moment in history

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