Browser: Lively fictional retelling of a fateful year for Ireland

Brief reviews of 1691: A Novel by Joe Joyce; A History of the Highlands Hotel by Tom Plunkett; Out of Love by Hazel Hayes

 

1691: A Novel

By Joe Joyce

Cove Books, €15

The action opens in May 1691 as Saint-Ruhe arrives in Limerick from France to take command of the Jacobite army fighting the Williamites. We learn of the internal Jacobite tensions, especially between Sarsfield and Tyrconnell, the former wanting to continue the fight, the latter anxious to cut a deal. The scene then switches to a Williamite leader, Mackay, and the internal tensions on that side, led by the Dutch general Ginckel. The narrative covers May to December 1691, with alternating chapters centring on Sarsfield and Mackay, and the Battle of Aughrim occupying centre stage. Joe Joyce knows the period well and this lively fictional retelling of a fateful year for Ireland remains historically accurate while revealing psychological and dramatic dimensions that a straightforward historical account would lack. Brian Maye

A History of the Highlands Hotel

by Tom Plunkett

St Conal’s NS, 2020

The painter Johnny Boyle remembers running into the kitchen of his family’s hotel in the 1960s and asking his mammy who was the man in pyjamas singing in the bar. She told him – wearily, one imagines – that it was writer Brendan Behan. Well researched and written with affection, this gem of a book tells the story of that hotel and the town of Glenties, Co Donegal from the 1800s to the present. The great and good all feature here, but they do not turn Tom Plunkett’s head; he never loses sight of the dinner dances and Sunday lunches, cumann meetings, wedding receptions and funeral dinners and the “attractive” bar staff who old Johnny Boyle employed to keep the “Bord na Móna men” and “dole men” drinking in the bar. Breandán Mac Suibhne

Out of Love

by Hazel Hayes

Unbound, £8.99

A love story in reverse! Screenwriter Hazel Hayes’ debut novel begins with a break-up. It ends with the couple’s first sambuca-soaked kiss as they trip home from Coppers nightclub. Hayes takes us on a journey through time, as we follow the ups and downs and ultimate destruction of a young couple in (or out of) love. However, although this is a story about a break-up, love lost is not love wasted. Heartbreak is met with hope. The prose follows a conversational style, reading like a tale relayed by a friend over a glass of Merlot on the couch. The good and the bad of that! The good; you’ll fly to the end, to the beginning of a beautiful love story. Brigid O’Dea

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