The wonderful Dublin One City, One Book initiative, hosted by Dublin City Library have just announced their book for next year. For those unfamiliar with One City, One Book, the purpose is to encourage people to read and engage in discussions about books. Each year a book with a connection to city is chosen, and over the course of April various events connected to the book will be organised. Fallen by Lia Mills. It is a good, though not surprising choice given next year’s One City, One Book will coincide with the Easter Rising Centenary celebrations.
I actually read Fallen a number of months ago, so in honour of the announcement I’m reposting it and encouraging you all to get involved with this wonderful initiative.
Spring, 1915. Katie Crilly gets the news she dreaded: her beloved twin brother, Liam, has been killed on the Western Front. A year later, when her home city of Dublin is suddenly engulfed in violence, Katie finds herself torn by conflicting emotions. Taking refuge in the home of a friend, she meets Hubie Wilson, a friend of Liam’s from the Front. There unfolds a remarkable encounter between two young people, both wounded and both trying to imagine a new life.
Set against the backdrop of World War 1 and the 1916 Easter Rising, when Ireland was experiencing a period of huge social and political upheaval which would have ramifications for generations to come, is the story of Katie. Katie is a well educated middle class girl, struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants from life, in the aftermath of her beloved twins death in the war.
In this decade of commemorations, this is the first of many books I suspect set during the period of 1916 – 1922 as Ireland fought for independence.
I did have some issues with this book, which I may as well put out there.
1. Would a middle class family still have been living on Parnell Sq in 1914? The majority of the old Georgian houses were given over to tenements, particularly on the Northside in the vicinity of Parnell Sq. Of course it’s a convient literary device as it places Katie a stones throw from the main action of the 1916 Rising on Sackville (now O’Connell’ St and requires her to travel across the city to her friends at Percy Place on the Southside.
2. Katie often speaks in Hiberno English. She is a well educated middle class girl, surely her accent should be more refined.
3. While there is a sense of danger, Katie moves around the city during the Rising with remarkable ease, through areas which were hotspots for the events of that week. All she has to show for it is a scratch on her forehead. Rather questionable.
Despite these historical accuracy issues I couldn’t help but enjoy this book. I have always loved social history, and the history of my city and its people. I am far more interested in the stories of ordinary Dubliners during the events of Easter week 1916, than the martyrs in the GPO. As Katie moves around the city we do get a feel for what it was like as the city centre went up in flames. The death and destruction. The looting. The food shortages. The huge number of civilian casualties. How families were dispersed across the city with no idea of where the people the loved were or if they were still alive.
Katie too spoke to me. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. That sense of being young, and struggling to figure out who you are and what you want from life. Torn between family demands, societal expectations and what you want for yourself.