• Bridget Walsh

Best Irish historical novel ever?

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Just finished reading Strumpet City by James Plunkett. I'm in awe of the lyrical writing and the attention to detail about life in Dublin at the start of the twentieth century. The characters range across all classes; from business owners, the police and priests, to workers, union reps, the unemployed and the just-about homeless Rashers Tierney. The reader sees Dublin through the eyes and the point of view of each in turn. (I was reminded of the TV series, Father Ted, when reading about the lives of the three priests, although not comical at all in the novel.)

The only drawback for me is the novel gives a singularly male version of events. There is a striking lack of women with agency. A couple of women, Mary Fitzpatrick and Mrs Bradshaw come out of the shadows, but as supporting characters. Constance Markievicz remains stuck in the cab when Larkin turns up to make a speech to striking workers. She gets a brief mention later as the 'posh lady'.

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