KEVIN NEAL, as a young child, survives what happened in 1798 but loses everyone. When he is older and again evicted by a landlord, he still holds onto the memory of the crumpled remains of Anastasia Kelly’s letter. He has found her, but ANTY is as much a stranger as the tenants who live around an Abbey. He finds her aloof and part of a different world. The orphans try to hide from the past, but the violence encircling threatens what little they have left. Can the orphans survive the wake of an Irish rebellion and the monsters unleashed?
O’Brien’s opening is strong and visceral in its depiction of the mayhem of war, and the chapters that follow maintain a persistent suspense—and will challenge readers to look deeply into what they’ve read to suss out the complexities of events that, at first, might seem simple. Set in the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, Clochán finds Neal growing up in a land continually ravaged by violence. Subtle infighting between landlords hangs over the heads of O’Brien’s characters, with trouble always looming on the horizon yet coming quickly when it finally strikes. As O’Brien stirs the intrigue, including several mysteries, it’s best to remember the words of local Ned Scallan: “Learn from what your eyes tell you.”
What O’Brien does not write proves just as important as what he does. Readers will find themselves weighing different truths and teasing out the difference between the works of man and the purportedly supernatural. With polished prose and crackling dialogue, he draws deep on the culture and character of his milieu, summoning up not just the events of the day but the drift of mind of people far removed from us yet still relatable.
Takeaway: An accomplished historical novel of mystery and coming of age in a divided Ireland.
Great for fans of: John Banville, Thomas Flannagan.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: N/A