‘Boycott – a word whose meaning is known the world over. But it once belonged to a man.’
A true historical novel. It is well researched with telling and poignant primary sources to really illustrate the history. I thought the use of primary sources worked well to highlight the plight of the Irish and the contemporary thoughts, feelings and attitudes of both sides. You really can tell that he knows his stuff. It is meticulously researched throughout without inhibiting upon the literary creationism of the novel.
It is a very poignant tale. The historical realism is played out nicely throughout with vivid imagination, thought and process.
The novel tells the story of two brothers living during the beginnings of the call for an independent Ireland, independent from the British Empire and who have lived through the devastating history of the Irish plight of the potato famine. It is a simple tale of two brothers, and all that is left of their family. They are two brothers whose temperaments and life philosophies draw them apart. The story is set against the backdrop of the turbulent days/years in Irish history which culminates in the creation of a political weapon – boycott. In the attempt to banish landlordism from their lives and seek vengeance for the wrongs done to them during their lives, the two brothers seek very different approaches to meet the same end; to banish landlordism and ultimately the British from their lands. One seeks to use the threat of boycott; the other takes the violent road. It is set in a point in history where the course of non-violence and boycott is the more moral and historically more successful device. (Evidenced too by the civil disobedience movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India).
At the start of the novel the story switches from past to ‘present’ (from the characters point of view) which eases you into the story and shows the differences in experiences and temperament of the two brothers, which comes to a head later on in the story.
The novel is extremely historically significant and emotive. The plight of the famine and landlordism is demonstrated clearly and emotively – it beggars belief that these things were allowed to happen. But sadly they did. And the novel demonstrates the emotive history well by managing to create strong sympathies with the characters.
This is how history should be taught, not as a series of dates, numbers and emotionless facts but tales of the real humanity of history good and bad, so that the consequences of the facts sink in deeper and are perhaps a little easier to digest and debate.
I perhaps found the novel a touch lengthy while reading but when you are finished it is well worth the effort. Despite the length, it was still gripping from the beginning to the end. I feel the novel does well to not exclude victims on the British side as well, avoiding the risk of bias which given the topic could easily be fallen into.