Publication date: March 17, 2014 by Fireship Press
Source: Publisher for an honest review
A pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom - and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices. In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.
Never Be At Peace by M.J. Neary is an interesting look at a turbulent and fascinating period in Ireland's history. The book begins and ends with Helena Molony, who is an actress and a revolutionary, as well as a feminist and labor activist. Quite a combination in a young woman - especially for the time.
With Helena as a focal point, the reader is then introduced to other rebels, political and labor activists as well as Yeats and Maude Gonne at Abbey Theater. The story weaves Helena's life and activities with the other members of the various Irish nationalist groups, feminist groups and the politics of the time.
I found the use of Helena as a focal point to tell the larger story of Irish rebels while also dealing with the issues that were important for women to be quite riveting. Helena was involved in numerous groups and sadly seems to have been mostly forgotten today. Never Be At Peace does a good job of bringing these people out of the history books and making them seem like real people again, not just names and dates. Their lives were complicated and the political and religious issues were complex. I found Helena's personal story to be absorbing and quite sad, really. I think the personal look at the lives of these activists, the repercussions of their actions and their determination in the face of hardships to be worthwhile and quite interesting.
For those unfamiliar with Irish history, a little more explanation regarding the motivations for rebellion might have been nice, but I have studied Irish history a bit and found the book quite compelling. For anyone interested in Irish history and/or politics, Never Be At Peace would be a great choice.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explore human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Her debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.
Books that don't over simplify the complex moments in history are often the worthwhile challenging reads. Sounds like this one worked for you. Thanks for the thoughtful review.ReplyDelete