Parnell and the Englishwoman

Hugh Leonard, Author Atheneum Books $19.95 (265p) ISBN 978-0-689-12127-2
This first novel by the acclaimed author of the memoirs Home Before Night and Out After Dark and the Tony Award-winning play ``Da , '' is based on the true story of Charles Stewart Parnell, who led the struggle for Irish Home Rule during the Victorian reign, and his romance with an Englishwoman, Kitty O'Shea. Leonard succeeds entirely in skirting the worst pitfalls of historical novels: wooden dialogue from the mouths of cardboard characters, hamstrung plot, you-are-there breathlessness. The book, which sparkles with Irish wit, offers a perceptive exploration of characters and a plot no less gripping for its twists and turns. The writing is elegant from the first sentence, which beckons in a way worthy of Edith Wharton: ``Eight guests had been invited; seven had come.'' While at the core Parnell remains something of an enigma--ultimately, it could be said that he was one to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory--Leonard has succeeded in making him more real than any historical text ever could. Altogether, the book is both an illuminating portrait of a fascinating, key figure in Irish history and a first-rate read. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
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