The Lockwoods of Clonakilty

Written by Mark Bois
Review by Jane Steen

Lieutenant James Lockwood of the Inniskilling Regiment returns home to Clonakilty after the battle of Waterloo, badly wounded. He recovers a precarious health but his career options are limited by lack of money, and he won’t accept more than the minimum from his father because of his sympathies for the repressed, impoverished Irish Catholics, his wife’s people. His family’s well-being and reputation are also under threat from his old enemy, Charles Barr. When James loses his commission because of Barr’s knowledge of his past, he is forced to head for India, while his daughter Cissy remains to face Barr alone.

This novel felt like a heavily abridged version of an epic, and I wished it had been expanded to a more appropriate length. The need to fit a great deal of plot into a small space made the pacing uneven, a pity because Bois’s style seemed best suited to close-up scenes. The strong points of this novel were the rendering of Irish speech into lyrical English, touches of humor, and the author’s skill for immersing the reader in the vocabulary and forms of speech of the era, all features which needed an expansive approach to plotting. The romantic elements didn’t succeed for me as well as the portrayal of deep ties of friendship and family loyalty. A promising, but inconsistent, depiction of military life in a fragile peacetime.