on November 11, 2007
This wonderful work of historical fiction is based on the 1916 Irish Rebellion, known as the Easter Rising.
Were introduced to the main character Ned Holloran, a 15-year-old survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. Neither of his parents survive. He is given the choice to stay in the United States with his sister Kathleen and her new husband. He chooses to go back to Ireland, where he attends an Irish school lead by Padraic Pearse, who is a scholar, poet, and rebel for the Irish cause. Ned gains a new appreciation for Ireland and it's culture and gets involved in the rebellion.
Llywelyn weaves the true facts and real life historical people of the rebellion with her fictional character Ned Halloran seamlessly. She introduces us to the amazing Irish history and people of the time in an informative and entertaining way.
This is the first book in an Irish Century series. I can hardly wait to read the next one, 1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War!
on May 27, 2003
1916 Good Story and Solid History
Some element of this book that I found helpful and interesting:
* It's a novel that employs footnotes.
* Characterizations are excellent and historically accurate
* Maps are helpful
* Listing of Characters is absolutely great.
I am not normally a fan of historical romance novels but 1916 was very well written. Really the romance portion was overshadowed by the momentous events of the day. The story of the 1916 Irish Rebellion (later called the Easter Rebellion) is a thoughtful tale of a country boy caught up in Irish nationalist fervor. Some key events led up to the Rebellion were: the forced conscription of Irish citizens for World War I, the rise of nationalism and German promises of assistance. The author brings all of these to light as well as other elements all interwoven in her story. Overall a good story well told.
I recommend this book to readers that enjoy histories, light romance and especially Irish culture.
on May 18, 2002
Although I maintain that women generally make better, and more accurate, authors of historical fiction, sometimes they let the love story get in the way of the history.
Morgan Llywelyn will probably remain one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her books "Finn MacCool" and "Lion of Ireland" were nothing short of grand, in both accuracy and readability. Granted, one must mentally dilute the romance as one reads, but overall they shone.
'1916' on the other hand, left me feeling rather ...well, fooled with.
I don't claim that Ms. Llywelyn didn't do months of involved research. Her facts are quite accurate. In fact, they're impeccable. She could have written a research paper with all the information she doubtlessly compiled.
Which is part of the problem. She didn't write a research paper, she wrote a novel. A novel which, like her others, has a very strong romantic slant to it, and more than a little bit of hero-ization.
I've read several books on or based around the events of the Easter Rising, including my favourite 'At Swim, Two Boys' by Jamie O'Neill. Although Llywelyn's interpretation of the events is historically valid, emotionally, I feel it's a bit of a flop.
The love story between Ned and Sile gives the book a happy feeling, even though the events are anything but. Everything turns out OK for them in the end, even though the organisers and participants of the Rebellion were shot on the spot, hanged, or imprisoned. Which is another point. The characters are hard to feel for; their trials and motives concealed in paragraphs of dialog that could come out of a history textbook.
Llywelyn seems to shy away from the gritty details which would have added a sense of reality to the scene. We don't get a sense of the desperation, frustration, or fear that the rebels undoubtedly felt. What about everybody who was shot? What about their families? What about the blood and tears and screaming?
The novel seemed more like a fairy tale in which Good is perfect and shining, and Evil is black and gets defeated in the end than an account of real events.
Because everything turns out so dandily for Ned and Sile, Llywelyn gives the impression that the 1916 Rising was, overall, a very Good Thing. Which, if you read your history texts, it wasn't--at least not to the boys who were shot or the rebels who were hanged.
I would really rate this book a 7/10, which translates to 3.5 stars, but since there are only 5 of the things, I rounded up.
Not a complete disappointment, but try and remember your perspective as you read.
on February 12, 2002
I love Morgan Llywelyn's books. I was so excited to see this novel published that I recommended it to my book club before I read it. None of my fellow book club readers were familiar with her work, so I jumped at the opportunity to introduce them to this marvelous writer. Over the ensuing weeks, one by one, my fellow readers asked me, "Are all of her books like this?" I had not started it yet, and was mystified at the lukewarm reception the book seemed to be getting. Once I read it myself, I was not puzzled for long.
Llywelyn's research is meticulous, as usual, but her telling of the story is stilted and her fictional characters have none of the complexity or depth of her other books. Perhaps because she was writing about people who lived so recently, and not people are lived centuries ago and are more legend than fact, she felt less at liberty to intersperse her fictional characters into the thick of the action. They seemed to be content to stay on the periphery, only arriving in the thick of the action by happenstance and not to fulfill their destinies. Granted, the events of Easter 1916 are well documented, but one expects more literary license to be taken by one's favorite historical novelists.
And this is probably my mistake, not hers. I expected Lion of Ireland but instead found myself reading what I felt were a series of notes on the rebellion, interspersed with a fictional romance. My fellow readers and I never understood why the Titanic was involved, except perhaps to make the lead characters more sympathetic.
My words here seem to convey that we hated the book. We didn't. It was a very good exploration of the politics and social crises of the time, and we all loved Padraic Pearse. The knowledge she gives us of this courageous, passionate man is alone worth the price of the hardcover edition. Her examination of the Irish Question is spectacular.
What kept this book from rating five stars was the incidental plot line involving her fictional characters. Had she left out the fictional Hallorans entirely the book would have been improved. We did not find ourselves yearning to see the next chapter about them. We prefered to see Padraic Pearse, the O'Rahilly, or Thomas Clarke in the first lines of a new chapter. We sought out Edmund Kent and Sean MacDermott. We ached for more about the fascinating Countess Constance Markievicz, who by herself would make a wonderful subject of another historical novel about the Irish-English conflict.
This is not a typical Morgan Llywelyn novel. It is a good novel, but not a great one. It is the one hiccup of an otherwise, in my opinion, highly exceptional writer.
I will not hesitate to buy Morgan Llywellyn's next book in hardback, despite my disappointment with this book.
on December 1, 2001
Readers who are expecting the major focus of Morgan Llywelyn's novel to be the Easter Rising of 1916 may be disappointed in their purchase of this book. The story follows the life of Ned Halloran, a young Irish boy, who finds himself enrolled in Saint Enda's Preparatory School, whose headmaster is none other than the famous Irish patriot Padraic Pearse.
Ned is an observant young man who is on the outside looking in at the events that culminate in the Easter Rising of 1916. The best part of the book by far is the actual telling of the Rising. This comes at the end of a story, which wanders far and wide to no good purpose. For example, Ned's sister has moved to America and married a man who abuses her. What little interest we have in this peripheral story seems shared by the author who forgets she has ever introduced this material into the plot. We never find out what happens to Kathleen and we don't care much because it has so little bearing on the central events that give this book its title.
We do care about Ned and we follow his movements carefully during the Rising. We know ahead of time, as does Pearse, that the chances for success are small, but it is the heroism and example of a few brave Irish patriots that counts and will act as an important catalyst for change in Ireland.
Pearse, MacDonagh, Connolly, MacBride, and many other brave men are stood against a courtyard wall in Kilmainham Jail and shot to death and in this act "a terrible beauty is born," as Yeats says in his great poem, "Easter 1916." Readers are well advised to read this poem, which says more in two pages than Llywelyn accomplishes in her book.
The last 25% of the novel, which tells the story of the rising, is well done and genuinely affecting. The reader may want to move quickly to this point in the story. Not much will be lost in terms of genuine understanding of the main events of this important event in Irish hisory.
on August 12, 2001
This is a powerful novel of the events surrounding the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin Ireland. The book opens in 1912 as Ned Halloran and his parents are on a journey from Ireland to America to visit Ned's sister Kathleen. Fate has intervened and they make their voyage on the Titanic. Ned survives the sinking, however his parents as well as new friend Dan Breen, are all lost to the sea.
Kathleen and her fiancé, Alexander Campbell, urge Ned to stay in New York but his heart is in Ireland and he returns to County Clare and his family farm where his older brother and two younger sisters are left to mourn the loss of their parents.
Meanwhile, Lord Inchpin of nearby Dromoland Castle, to make up for what young Ned has been through, has offered him a rare opportunity for a farm lad from County Clare - further education at a private school in Dublin. The school chosen turns out to be St. Enda's, the school run by Padraig (Patrick) Pearse, south of downtown. Pearse, as those familiar with early 20th C. Irish history know, is one of the heroes of the 1916 Easter Rising. This is a fictionalized account of events leading up to that fateful week.
Ned interacts with many historical figures during this time including all the principals of the Irish Rebellion in which he becomes a courier for the eventual heroes. During this time, too, he runs into Sile (prounced "Sheila") Breen, Dan's sister, who has run off to Dublin and is how working in the world's oldest profession. The naïve Ned isn't aware of this at first and is, instead, stunned by her beauty although he is side-tracked by another woman he clearly has a crush on. Important too, is secondary character Henry Mooney, the young journalist from county Limerick Ned meets on the train on his way to Dublin.
Even though the reader may already be aware of the events of April and May 1916 in Ireland, the emotions evoked by this novel, become very real - as if they happened yesterday instead of 85 years ago. Llywelyn portrays the Pearse brothers, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Thomas Clark, James Connolly, Sean MacDermott, Thomas MacDonagh, and others in such away as the reader feels the same love for Ireland and has the same desires as they do.
In the sequel to this book, 1921, Morgan Llywelyn has one character say to another "History tells what happened; literature tells what it felt like." This is exactly how I feel about 1916. Despite reading history books relating the events, reading this novel has made this very personal. I could feel the pain of these characters, I could feel their fervor and enthusiasm for the cause they believed in, and in the end I could feel the need to keep the memory of these brave people alive as the country fights for home rule and freedom from British oppression.
When you are finished reading this book, and I highly recommend that you do, pick up the sequel 1921, which relates the events of the next six years in Ireland's struggle for independence and although it is Henry Mooney's story, it does feature Ned in a very big way.
There's no better compliment I can give a novel than to say it not only made me think, made me want to read everything I can get my hands on, and wish to visit the historical sites in Ireland including the GPO, Kilmainham Gaol, and other locales mentioned in the book. Llywelyn has made this very easy with the maps in front of the book showing the locations of these places. Also helpful is the list of characters, both fictional and historical, in the front of the book. She adds several pages of notes and a selected bibliography at the end. Read this book - FEEL history.
on August 4, 2001
If you've ever wondered about what happened during the Irish Rebellion of 1916, but you don't want a boring textbook re-telling of the events, then this is the book for you. 1916 mixes fact with fiction in a way that makes the events of the Irish rebellion lifelike and engaging. Fans of historical fiction will truly relish this novel.
The story begins predictably enough on board the Titanic, on which (fictional) protagonist, County Clare farmboy Ned Halloran and his parents are headed to New York City for his sister Kathleen's marriage. We all know what happens next, so long story short, Ned survives and his parents don't. Llewelyn uses Ned's experience onboard the ill-fated ship as his sounding board for every single challenge he faces in the book. I don't know how many times he says, "I know I can get through this, I survived the Titanic!" Some may scoff at the fact that Ned is a first-hand witness of two major historical events of the 20th century, but thankfully for the reader, the Titanic episode doesn't occupy much of the novel.
The remainder of the book is a painstaking, detailing, fascinating retelling of the few years leading up to the 1916 rebellion. Ned enrolls at St. Enda's School near Dublin, where Padraig Pearse is headmaster, and soon finds himself in the company of the future rebellion leaders. He joins forces with them and eventually becomes embroiled in the Irish movement toward Home Rule. All the while, he interacts with countless famous faces, a veritable Who's Who of Irish history. The book takes the reader to the front lines, allowing him to see the events through the eyes of someone who experienced them.
Llewelyn strives to convey what various historical figures such as Joe Plunkett, Countess Markievic, Sean MacBride, Sean Heuston, and numerous others were like in their daily lives and how they came to be part of the rebellion that paved the way for (partial) Irish freedom.
As an historian, Llewelyn receives high marks. Every event is painstakingly researched. Even minor occurrences and biographical information are footnoted, and the novel boasts an impressive bibliography. Llewelyn makes the history accessible to the common reader, and for this she deserves praise. 1916 is an excellent historical novel.
Where she falters is in the fiction she weaves into the fact, and the prose she uses to convey it. Although she bases them on historical record, many of the characters seem flat and even stereotypical. The plucky Irish always have cute, brogue-laden one-liners to offer, and the British are sufficiently stuffy and callous to make you roll an eye.
The novel seems more interested in driving the plot along than in dazzling the reader in the way the author can turn a phrase. Many of the events not directly associated with historical fact (such as Kathleen's romance with a sensitive priest) seem trite and conventional, and the love scenes (yes, there are love scenes) are riddled with borderline ridiculous imagery.
But these missteps can be overlooked, as Llewelyn has given us an engrossing work that transports us into the history as it occurs. Students of Irish history as well as those with a casual interest can appreciate this book for the way it opens up history to the reader.
on July 9, 2001
1916 is one of those books that you will remember for the rest of your life! It's long lenght may deter some from wanting to read it, but once you start it is hard to put down! This book gives any reader a comprehensive idea of the history of Ireland's 1916 REbellion (the key people involved, the events leading up to it, the actual standoff itself and the poigant aftermath), yet does so in a very unconventional, non-text book-like way. Following the life of a fictional teenage boy who becomes embroiled in the midst of the rising revolutionary movement, actual historical figurs weave in and out of the story, with fictional players as well. Even if you are not interested in Irish history (which you may be after reading this book), 1916 will enthrall you w/ its easy, conversational writning style and entertain you with its adventurous twists in the plot. Llwellyn masterfully blends history with fiction to give readers a sense of that era- a time of strife, hope,fear and change in Ireland that parallels the time of the American Revolution, with the Irish insurrectionist being as wise and admirable as the American forefathers. Although 1916 does not end rosy and happy (people die - and there's also a sex scence- be foretold, it brings up many needed messages about persistance, human nature and "lost causes", as well as enthralling the reader in a seldom-told Irish history lesson. It also has some great one-liners. So if you're up for an epic read, but one that will go by quickly and leave you interested in more, 1916 is a book for you.
on April 26, 2000
I have read several of Ms. Llywelyn's books and this is far and away the best. It accuratly conveys the increasing tension between the British and the Irish of the early years of the 20th, and the brilliant Patrick (Padrig) Pease who was one of the organizers of the "Rising of '16" All the "leading lights" of the Irish independence movement are here: Sheedy-Skeffington, "The O'Rahilly", Conolly, William Pease (Patrick's younger brother),Plunkett and all the others who gave their lives for Ireland's freedom. Allof this is seen through the eyes of young Ned Halloran, one of Pease's students. Ned of course becomes heavily involved in the rising and witness severalof the pivotal events. A good bit of research has been done for this book as any reading of a non-fiction book dealing the Rising will show. The Easter Rising in Dublin was "Ireland's Alamo" and Ms. Llywelyn's excellent novel conveys the dedication of the brave men and women who were willing to take on the mightiest empire on earth to free their country and make it a nation....
on April 25, 2000
_1916_ has been justly praised for good historical coverage of a period that has always fascinated those, like myself, who enjoy seeing David eventually prevail against Goliath. While we don't get to that point during the book (whose timeframe begins with the Titanic and doesn't extend much past the Rising), we do see the birth of the 20th century Republican movement.
If you're interested in the history of the times, the difference between this and a history book is sort of like the difference between a small-plane overflight and a walkabout on the actual ground. You don't see as much of the forest, but you see the trees very well, and that of course is the focus of the book. It's very outspokenly feminist (whether that's a positive or negative probably depends on your personal views). The use of contemporary headlines at the ends of chapters is a masterful touch that keeps the story in context; too bad some chapters have them and some don't.
I did have some trouble imagining the main character as a credible human being, what with his propensity for always landing right in the midst of the action. For someone who's supposed to be so intelligent, he isn't especially introspective and doesn't really appear to foresee any consequences to his actions. Can't help but like him, though. The pace of action is generally pretty good even where the writing isn't that creative.
The epitome of a mixed review: if you like its strengths, you'll like it. If its weaknesses are your pet peeves, you may not.