Saturday 21 September 2019

'The Guns of Easter' by Gerard Whelan

Tomorrow, before this year's special 1916 commemorations begin, the Irish Independent will bring you Book 6 in our Great Children's Books collection, The Guns of Easter by Gerard Whelan.

Tomorrow, before this year's special 1916 commemorations begin, the Irish Independent will bring you Book 6 in our Great Children's Books collection, The Guns of Easter by Gerard Whelan.

This acclaimed novel has particular resonance, given the attention being paid to The Rising this year. It captures the divided loyalties of the time in an exciting story that the author says concerns "real events about real nobodies".

Twelve-year-old Jimmy Conway has to find food for his mother and sisters because his father is away fighting with the British Army in the First World War.

Then war comes to the streets of Dublin in 1916 and Jimmy finds himself caught up in the horror. It doesn't take long for him to discover that the reality of war is a good deal less heroic than he had imagined.

Jimmy now has to deal with conflicting loyalties because his uncle is one of the rebels occupying the GPO and fighting the army his father is fighting with in Europe. Jimmy's quest for food takes him on a dangerous adventure through Dublin in the throes of the Rising.

Can he dodge the street patrols? Will he make it home before curfew?

Before our eyes, Jimmy changes from a trusting child, gaining insight into the horrors of war and the complexity of the Ireland of his time.

In the book, Gerard Whelan evokes the Dublin tenement life of the time in a way that is reminiscent of Sean O'Casey's plays. It's a wonderful tale of suspense and terror, firmly grounded in the life of an ordinary boy.

"If you want to understand how the Irish revolution split families apart, read this book," best-selling writer Eoin Colfer has said.

Gerard Whelan was born in 1957 and grew up in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, where he now lives.

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