Tenants of Time

Thomas Flanagen, Author Dutton Books $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-525-24606-0
Eagerly awaited by readers of The Year of the French, Flanagan's new novel is even more powerful and engrossing than its predecessor. Set during three pivotal decades of Irish history, the narrative focuses on four men who participate in the short-lived Rising of 1867 and the irrevocable effects on their lives of the battle of Clonbrony Wood. Ned Nolan returns from America to his hometown of Kilpeder to lead the uprising, programmed by the Irish Republican Brotherhoodthe Fenianswhose sacred oath is the motivating obsession of Ned's existence. He enlists the aid of three of Kilpeder's young men: schoolmaster Hugh MacMahon, Robert Delaney, a bright, ambitious shopkeeper's assistant, and Vincent Tully, charming wastrel son of the town's leading merchant. In the aftermath of the aborted rebellion, Ned hardens into a merciless terrorist. Bob becomes a solicitor, an MP in the party of Charles Stewart Parnell and the lover of the wife of the Earl of Ardmor, who ""owns'' Kilpeder and lives in an estate overlooking the town. Except for Hugh, who is one of the narrators of this moving story, tragedy stalks each of the veterans of Clonbrony Wood. Their intertwined life dramas are played out against the tragedy of Ireland's bloody attempts to shake the yoke of British rule. The novel beautifully integrates the lives of its fictional characters with a striking depiction of the historical circumstances that motivated rebellion against the Crown. Flanagan's portrayal of the texture of Irish society illuminates the roots of perennial conflict. He skillfully describes the rise of Charles Parnell and the success of the Land League campaign, Parnell's disgrace and the destruction of all his accomplishments while the ``damned bloody empire . . . settled back to watch the Irish tear ourselves to pieces.'' As in all tragedy, there is irony: of Irish informers betraying their compatriots; of Parnell's sudden fall just as home rule seems certain; of the way Bob Delaney's life mirrors that of his leader's. Written in musical prose and imbued with an elegiac strain, the novel also eulogizes the innocence, hope and idealism of youth, which, because ``we are all the tenants of Time,'' gives way to the disillusionment and bitter accommodations of one's maturer years. A fine fusion of solid historical and sociological insight with a shrewd, sensitive grasp of character, plus a steady sweep of dramatic momentum incorporating an affecting portrait of a doomed love affair, this is a book one does not want to put down. It is a significant literary achievement, as timely as today's headlines about violence in Ireland. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC featured alternate. (January 29)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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