My recent holiday read is two books in one, the centenary edition of After The Rising & Before The Fall, the first two books in a captivating Irish trilogy by Orna Ross. Full of intriguing twists exploring a historical murder, family feuds and forbidden love, this book has left a deep impression on me. Although compelling reading, it’s not the plot hooks and twists within the saga that has impacted me so deeply. Rather it is the raw portrayal of the bitter and bloody turmoil of 1920s Ireland. The poignant depiction of Ireland’s bitter civil war is so powerful and thought provoking. This is enhanced with the story portrayed through a series of different timelines, exploring the legacy of this bitter conflict that still remains today.
Since finishing After The Rising & Before The Fall I have been desperate to find out more about Ireland’s history, re-watching the brilliant Ken Loach film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, devouring the Netflix mini series, Rebellion and dipping into Fergal Keane’s family memoir, Wounds.
If you love books rich with history, I strongly suggest you read After The Rising & Before The Fall.
The Irish Civil War is often referred to as ‘The War of the Brothers’, yet Orna Ross’s powerful narratives showcase the integral part women played in the conflict. After The Rising & Before The Fall are the stories of Peg and Norah, two friends in a small Wexford village whose lives are changed for ever due to the war, but also because of their brothers, Barney and Dan. Fighting against the British in the previous War of Independence alongside his best friend Barney, Dan is also Peg’s lover. Yet when the civil war erupts, Peg and Barney discover Dan is on the opposing side of the conflict. But what of Norah, and what is to be her fate?
As Orna Ross comments in her author’s note at the end of the novels, the civil war was a ‘kitchen conflict that was far more everyday, far more personal, and far more frightening.’ Yet I was in no way prepared for the almighty twist upon twist that this saga delivered. I was left shocked to the core.
These novels are also the story of Jo, Peg’s granddaughter who runs away from Ireland at the age eighteen. Her story, as she is confronted with her lost lover after 20 years when she returns home for her mothers funeral is a poignant exploration of Irish identity. As well as facing Rory, the only man she ever loved, yet not knowing why he was so forbidden to her, Jo also has to confront the ghosts of her family history, including the tragic death of her Great Uncle Barney.
Both books are rich in intrigue as they depict the turmoil and conflicts within a nation. Also powerfully explored within the novels are mental health, unwanted pregnancy and the role of religion.
The centenary edition of After The Rising & Before The Fall has recently been re-released in advance of the publication of the final book in the trilogy, In The Hour which is due to be released in 2022.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour of the first two volumes in this compelling saga. To read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour, please see below.