The Rebels of Ireland

Written by Edward Rutherfurd
Review by Dana Cohlmeyer


Rutherfurd’s latest bestseller concludes his sweeping look at Irish history first begun in The Princes of Ireland (Dublin in the UK). The two-book saga charts Ireland’s struggle from earliest Celtic history through to the early 20th century. Rebels opens in 1597 with the Plantation period – the final step in English domination enforcing the Catholic persecution in earnest – and takes readers through Cromwell, the Battle of the Boyne, the Potato Famine and the struggle for independence.

Well-written and captivating, this mammoth book is filled to the brim with Irish heroes. Historical figures Daniel O’Connell, Jonathan Swift, and Robert Emmet, among others, mix with fictional families such as the O’Byrnes, Doyles, Walshes, and Budges to fully bring to life the dramatic history of Ireland. Rutherfurd so expertly blends fact with fiction that readers will find themselves engrossed in the characters’ lives, finish the book, and realize that they have learned much about what can seem a confusing national history.

Rutherfurd incorporates the beauty of Dublin and the wildness of the surrounding mountains and countryside so well that, at times, it feels as though the setting is actually another character. (Such detail provides almost a mini-vacation!) This isn’t one of those sequels where a reader feels lost if they’ve not read earlier books; the author sums up the first book superbly before beginning this concluding work. However, the always-present danger of such sweeping sagas – trying to keep family lines straight – is almost impossible to avoid after nearly 1600 pages between the two books.

With its well-crafted plot, characters and setting, this book is brilliantly done. Overall, The Rebels of Ireland is a must for Rutherfurd fans, Irish history buffs, and those readers who appreciate compelling stories of struggle for personal freedom and independence.