Saturday, July 16, 2005

Book Review: The Princes of Ireland

I actually read this one earlier this summer. I lent it to my mother and just got it back from her last night. She enjoyed it much more than the Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) that her book club is reading this month!

Edward Rutherfurd has written a historical novel of Ireland, centered mostly around the region of Dublin. He begins with the time of St. Patrick, about 480 A.D., and concludes about the middle of the reign of Henry VII of England (the late 1400’s, or thereabouts). He follows the fates of the four fictional families through the thousand years to highlight the changes in Irish culture, highlighting its strengths and its weaknesses. Historical people and events are used to anchor the novel in time and to show major changes in Ireland’s history.

Mr. Rutherfurd also includes a pronunciation guide in the back, which I found very helpful. I was fascinated by the Anglicization of words that took place over the course of the novel, especially place names and family names (Dublin was originally “Duv Lindh,” for example). And while I knew the Celts had displaced the original population of the island, I didn’t realize that the Norse had also invaded and occupied Ireland.

Ireland is a fascinating place, practical and mystical, its people poets and warriors. They are also backstabbers and connivers, extremely loyal to their clan. Had their early leaders a vision of the island as a distinct nation, instead of a collection of tribes, Ireland probably would have remained independent. Mr. Rutherfurd captures that complexity well. I found the book engrossing, reading far later into the night than I should have. It’s a big book—over 700 pages, but a relatively quick read. A good beach/camping/cabin book.

On the March Hare Rating Scale: 4 out of 5 bookmarks.