Cave of Secrets
Ireland, 1639. Twelve-year-old Tom Flynn lives in the Big House near Roaringwater Bay in County Cork. On the surface, his is a life of wealth and privilege but he is not happy; his father is a loud-mouthed bully, only concerned with making money.
Fleeing his father’s anger, Tom tumbles down a cliff and discovers a cave. Here he meets Donal O’Driscoll and they become friends. Donal’s family is welcoming. Theirs is a simple life, but there is mutual respect and kindness with everyone pulling their weight. Tom learns to make himself useful and feels valued in a way he doesn’t at home.
Donal’s father leads a band of smugglers evading English customs duties by buying goods from merchant ships before they reach port. When he invites Tom to join them, Tom is thrilled. Not only is this a real adventure but it will pay his father back for thinking him worthless.
Back home, Tom’s father has invited the Earl of Cork to stay, hoping to impress him with his lavish lifestyle. The English government is suspicious of the Catholic gentry and wants to replace them with Protestant landowners. The Catholic Mr Flynn needs influential friends in Dublin. But is the Earl really on his side, or is he after the Flynn estate for one of his Protestant friends?
I read this book very happily; I enjoyed the adventure and, along with Tom, I learnt a lot about rural life. The author is also good at illuminating the grubby politics of the time. My one caveat is that I found it a touch too stereotyped with the poor but noble O’Driscolls, and the upper-middle class Mr Flynn being boorish in his treatment of Tom and fawning on the Earl of Cork.
However, I’m sure children of ten plus will just enjoy the exciting story.