1972: A Novel of Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution


At first glance, Barry Halloran, the protagonist of 1972—the fourth in a series of dated novels concerning Ireland in the twentieth century—would appear to be the usual caricature of an overzealous young man joining the IRA for the thrill. But after Barry’s first taste of violence, he vows he’ll never kill again—not out of cowardice, but out of revulsion at the seductive nature of the act itself, and the hot-blooded joy he took in it. Barry remains on active service for many years, and, indeed, retains contacts with the IRA all his life, but he also moves on: He attends university and becomes a photojournalist. Once ensconced in a respectable life—mortgage, fiancée, dependents—Barry risks a trip into troubled Derry to take photos of Father Aloysius’ peaceful demonstration. There, as an eyewitness to the sectarian brutality of Bloody Sunday, Barry is forced to choose between his comfortable life, the republican ideals he cherishes, and his passionate vow to never unleash the devil within.

Ms. Llywelyn writes like a clear partisan to the republican cause, yet she shows both sides of the conflict. Although not much happens in Ireland between 1950 and 1972 that is of overwhelming dramatic effect (compared to the Easter Rising in 1916 and the Civil War in 1921), the author’s depiction of an intelligent, self-critical man in crisis is thorough and gripping.

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