Musings From MommyLand

Because sometimes there is more to Mommy…

Worth Reading: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd

on February 18, 2012

If any of you out there have ever read Edward Rutherfurd, you may be cringing a bit at my recoomendation.  Hopefully not because of his writing (which I think is excellent), but because I think that everyone of his books is 800+ pages.  And this saga really lives up to that moniker as it is a two book series that spans 1500 years of Dublin history

The first book, “Princes of Ireland” begins in the 430 AD during the pagan summer festival of Lughnasa. It then follows several families through the coming of St. Patrick and Christianity, the arrival of the Vikings, and the eventual arrival of the British.  Among his central characters, Rutherfurd also weaves in the characters from Irish history that we all know such as St. Patrick himself, Brian Boru, Strongbow, and Henry VIII.  In this book, Rutherfurd shows how Ireland went from an island of High Kings and Druids ruling itself, to a subjugated people under British rule.  And the central theme which seems to dominate all life for almost all of this 1500 year span and indeed the real history of Ireland is Catholic vs. Protestant.

The second book, “Rebels of Ireland” picks up in 1597 at where the last book left off.

 This book makes you realize just how much of the last 500 years Ireland has spent rebelling against and being subsequently crushed by the British government.  Rutherfurd also picks up following the same several family lines from the first book and how thrive or just survive through all the turmoil taking place.  In this book, we again meet historical figures like Cromwell, Emmet, and O’Connell.  We also experience events like the introduction of the plantation system in Ulster, the Great Famine, and finally the Easter Uprising and eventual freedom for 3/4 of the country.

Ok well there is the brief synopsis of the books.  I kept them really short and rather generic A.) because I didn’t want to give any spoilers and B.) it would take me three days to write this post if I tried to give a detailed account of these monster books.  It took me about 3 weeks to power through these two books and I am a fast reader.  I know that I am using words like monster and power through, but please don’t take these to mean that I didn’t love the books because I very much did.  Trust me, you wouldn’t commit yourself to 1700+ pages if you didn’t like what you were reading.

This is the second and third book I have read by Edward Rutherfurd.  The first being “Sarum” which is a 10,000 year epic set around Stonehenge and the area surrounding it.  This, along with all of his other books including Russka (this is in my to read pile), London, The Forest (also set in England), and New York, hold to the same pattern of following several families lines over the course of hundreds of years of history.

Let me just say, I really really enjoyed these books.  I have studied history for a large part of my life and I can tell that Rutherfurd has too.  I am not an expert on early Irish history, but I do consider myself a student of Modern Irish history and was so happy to see that he didn’t stayed true to history and didn’t invent any major events or characters.  There is an upside as well as a downside to his use of history as the backbone of his novels.  The upside being that I feel so much more knowlegeable about Irish history now.  I understand more of how and why the English came to be involved in Ireland and how the various rebellions rose and fell.  The downside is that it is almost too much history.  Sometimes you are looking for more of a connection with the characters but he sometimes put that in the background to talk about what is going on at the time.

Some reviews I have read stated that they didn’t like the books because just as you connecting to a character and becoming emotionally attached, Rutherfurd jumps a hundred years forward and introduces you to new characters.  I don’t really agree with this because I found a connection with the family lines themselves rooting for or against certain families.  I actually didn’t even notice it as much in these books either as I did in his other book because as a two part series he usually only jumped a couple generations so the characters you loved may still even be alive.

My one and only complaint against this book is that the last quarter of it which encompasses history from Daniel O’Connell to the Famine and the Easter Uprising and Civil War, is far too short and ends too abruptly.  I may be biased about this because it is my particular area of interest and I was so looking forward to finally reaching this part of his history, but it just seemed rushed.

Whatever small issues I may have had with this book, I still whole heartedly reccommend it and give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It will definitely take a good investment of time, but if you love Ireland and/or history it will be well worth it.


3 responses to “Worth Reading: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd

  1. Sarum is one of my favourite books ever. I haven’t read the Dublin Saga, which sounds right up my street with the inclusion of Viking raiders. Thanks for the review.


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