Morgan Llywelyn’s latest novel chronicles the events which took place in Ireland between 1917 and 1923. After the Easter Rising, journalist Henry Mooney writes cautiously of Irish freedom. Caught between the republican fervor of his friends Ned and Síle Halloran, and the world of Ella Rutledge, the Anglo-Irish widow he loves, Henry clings to neutrality, the journalist’s prerogative. But personal tragedy, acquaintance with Michael Collins, and a position with the Irish Bulletin show him the impossibility of remaining untouched by politics and violence. He strives to perfect the writer’s art of influencing readers.
Although 1921 features characters from Llywelyn’s previous book, 1916, it contains a stand-alone story. Its abrupt ending, and certain unresolved issues, suggest the author intends to pen another related book.
As ever, Morgan Llywelyn demonstrates masterful storytelling. Footnotes and an extensive bibliography reveal the staggering number of facts she entwined into fiction, yet instead of overwhelming the reader, she successfully unravels the complexities of the Irish War of Independence and the creation of the Irish Free State. Her love for Ireland and its history beams out of her prose, which is at once lyrically descriptive and economically brutal.
1921 is bound to provoke emotional response. Henry sums up its viewpoint by stating: “The British remained unalterably convinced of their God-given right to rule, while the Irish remained equally convinced of their right to freedom from domination.”