In 1949, Morgan Llywelyn continues the saga of the Halloran and Mooney families, introduced to readers in her previous novels, 1916 and 1921. Although this epic novel chronicles events in Ireland during the years 1925-1949, it also focuses on the wider global community.
The story centers on Ursula Halloran, who develops an interest in international affairs while at a finishing school in Switzerland. When she returns to a position at Dublin’s fledgling broadcasting station, 2RN, she incorporates this interest into her work, along with her Republican sentiments. Later employed by the League of Nations, Ursula flees an Ireland that frowns on independent women and their choices.
Through Ursula’s life, readers see the effects of the Wall Street crash, the rise of fascism in Europe, and the events of World War II. We see how the IRA continued the fight for a unified Ireland and what life was like in both rural and urban Ireland at this point in history.
The long time period spanned by this novel means it is not as dramatically tense as its predecessors. However, few storytellers can match Morgan Llywelyn’s skill. Her research is as impeccable as ever, her characterization as human and real. 1949’s ending suggests there will be another book in this series. I hope so; I would like to see how Ursula’s family and friends weather post-1949 Irish affairs.