The 1916 Easter Rising wasn’t just a military rising, but a cultural revolution too. The Nationalists tells the story of a doomed love affair between a revolutionary journalist and a headstrong Kerry born Cumann na mBan girl. The story also explores how the Catholic church viewed the events of the day. Interweaving both factual and fictional characters, the story follows an eccentric array of characters.
The Nationalists is the first book of a planned trilogy. A powerful tale of rebellion, love, redemption and loss.
DL Andersen‘s Review: 3.5-Stars
The Nationalists by Liam Robert Mullen
At first glance, The Nationalists intrigued me, being an avid historical fiction reader. The novel tells the story of the Easter Rebellion of 1916 in Ireland and the ensuing struggle between English and Irish combatants.
Having been somewhat familiar with this part of history through a few movies and allusions in other stories and ballads, I relished the idea of learning more in historical fiction form as full immersion into the era.
The novel opens with the plight of Tony, a young journalist out to cover the events, in the wake of the violent uprising. He is injured and meets a young Irish nurse named Angela. The two begin a relationship in the aftermath of the rebellion and interact with a growing cast of characters as the story unfolds.
From here, the story plods along vacillating between sweeping overviews of the times and personal issues with too many characters to keep track of and author injected asides that made me aware I was reading a history text and not a story I wanted to care deeply about. The narrative is relayed in flat, matter-of-fact tone with only brief glimpses of sparkling dialogue and riveting narration that indicated this author has the talent to produce good characters and a riveting story if taken more care in crafting.
Mostly we’re fed dry facts about the times and events, indicative of the author’s journalistic background. Anyone wanting an overview of the history told in a survey form, this is probably a good way to learn about Ireland’s plight in a mostly entertaining way rather than a dry historical non-fiction text. Mullen has a good command of the political history and dire circumstances that gripped Ireland during this tumultuous time. He’s done his research well there and clearly is passionate about the subject.
However, as a story with characters, setting, and plot, it leaves much to be desired. There are even a few glaring anachronisms that pulled me from the story. At one point a character references “the Rebellion of 1916” when the year is still approaching it’s close! Wouldn’t it be more likely he’d just refer to “the rebellion” at this timely juncture? At another place, the author mentions a “car idling” while a young couple talk – as if that’s a normal thing in early 20th century Ireland when automobiles are still a fairly new invention and horse and buggy are still in use. Other references to setting detail and women’s clothing clearly show an author unfamiliar with the daily life of this era and relying more on his own modern interpretation rather than historical accuracy. In creating the ambiance for historical fiction, setting detail and appropriate language is key. Readers want to be taken back and immersed in the era. Yet at one point, a character chides another with such modern speak as, “Lighten up!”
Unfortunately, I was not willing to “lighten up” when reading a story of such heavy historic subject matter that kept me from truly appreciating and living the times as it happened.
Aside from that, I do think it is a novel worth reading for anyone interested in the era and events. It would make a great starting point to continue delving further into the era, but as a fictional story, it lacks depth, characterization and a strong voice.
RA Winter’s Review: 4.5-Stars
The Nationalist by Liam Robert Mullen
The Nationalist brings to life the war for Irish freedom. Written in an Omni perspective, the author gives us insights into the rebellion with lots of tidbits humanizing the struggle. There is a wide variety of characters, and we get to know each one of them. The language and the actions of each supporting character provide the reader with a cultural experience as we get to know the motives and desires.
This book is for the history lover. There is a love story between the reporter Tony and a nurse, Angela, but politics wars between them, then her death takes her away. Romance is not the main thread of the book, but the romance does move the plot along.
The Catholic Church’s attitude is given a fair amount of coverage and helps the reader understand the political aspects of the time. The writer also gives us insights into the British officers.
The prose is very well written. There were only a couple of issues that I found in the text that the author needs to go over. I highlighted them, and he should be able to find them easily for a quick fix. It didn’t take away from the powerful content.
The cover is very well done. The tone is perfect.
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