The dark side of the Irish Civil War, as seen from the little burg
of Wexford, and recalled by an ex-rebel to his daughter and dead
wife. Rather than make guerrilla action against the English
overlords seem exciting, Doyle (Dancing with Minnie the Twig, not
reviewed) is more interested in the mundane activities of
well-meaning but hardly skilled agitators far from the action in
Dublin. His protagonist is Jim Rowe, leader of his town's
detachment of Irish Volunteers in the troublesome years immediately
following World War I. The novel begins rather like a comedy, with
Rowe's Volunteers training with sticks and trying to follow the
directives of their local brigade commander, who dresses the boys
down after a ham-handed attempt to steal guns demonstrates their
lack of discipline ("Mavericks would be shot-if the necessary
bullets could only be found"). But the war itself is deadly
serious: The Black and Tans-sociopathic thugs barely masquerading
as British soldiers-are roaming the countryside, terrorizing at
will. A number of surprisingly (for the Volunteers) well-planned
ambushes go awry and reveal the probable location of a traitor.
From then on, the novel slides into cold, fatalistic tragedy,
shedding any romantic notions about the glory of battle or the
purity of armed resistance. Graceful etchings of ordinary men swept
up in the tide of war, trying not to lose their souls along the
way. (Kirkus Reviews)
South Wexford, 1920: Jim Rowe is the newly appointed captain of a
company of volunteers set up to combat the recent arrival of a
battalion of Black and Tans. Responsible for a number of bloody
raids and killings elsewhere in the country, the Tans are under
strict orders to quell any notions of Irish independence among the
local population. Jim is young, idealistic and committed. When the
ammunition he needs for his men does not materialize, he gets what
he wants - by force - from local smallholders. Emboldened by his
success, he starts to plan a far bigger operation: the ambush of
the local Tan garrison as they return to base one evening. But
Jim's dreams of success turn to fear when he suspects that one of
his close friends may not be entirely loyal to the cause. When the
Tans come after him, their reprisal is more vicious and more
personal than he could ever have imagined. Featuring a cast of
ordinary people caught up in the onward march of history, and with
writing that swings seeamlessly between past and present, joy and
despair, A Troubled Time is a haunting, lyrical novel of political
idealism, love, jealousy and a lust for revenge.
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