Green Dawn at St Edna’s: The Celtic Colours Trilogy, Book 1
This novel tells the story of William ‘Finn’ Devoy, who is sent from New York to a Dublin boarding school in 1911, aged twelve, against the background of the build-up to the 1916 Easter Rising. Finn’s headmaster is Patrick Pearse, one of the Rising’s leaders, and he encounters other key figures in Ireland’s emerging fight for independence (notably James Connolly and Constance Markievicz) at the school, where he becomes an increasingly committed member of the struggle. The novel is meticulously researched, steering the reader through all the different bodies who played a part in the Rising and the independence movement. It also weaves in the legend of Cuchulainn, Ireland’s mythological hero and fabled warrior, who the novel’s protagonist increasingly identifies with and from whom he takes his nickname.
This is the first book in a trilogy, which may be one of the problems in terms of engaging the reader with the unfolding events: setting Part One so firmly within the 1911-1916 timeframe and so firmly within the very detailed life of the school gives the story-telling a very slow pace. All the events in the boys’ lives, including plays they are involved in, are given the same weight of detail and telling as the action scenes. This impacts on the unfolding of the Rising itself, which occurs only, and quickly, in the last quarter of the book. Exposition is heavily used and there are some issues around characterisation: one early, highly criminal action by Finn has little impact on him, which seems less than plausible. I have a long interest in this area and very much wanted to like this book, but am afraid I found it a less than satisfying read. Hopefully, the rest of the trilogy will put the story-telling more to the fore.