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The struggle of the Irish people for independence is one of the epic tales of the 20th century. Morgan Llywelyn has chosen it as the subject of her major work, The Irish Century, a multi-novel chronicle that began with 1916, and now continues in 1921, both a story and a history. The two big historical names in 1921 are Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins, both famous, mysterious, and familiar Irish figures.

The year 1921 is the year of the Irish Civil War and the year of the ...

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1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War

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The struggle of the Irish people for independence is one of the epic tales of the 20th century. Morgan Llywelyn has chosen it as the subject of her major work, The Irish Century, a multi-novel chronicle that began with 1916, and now continues in 1921, both a story and a history. The two big historical names in 1921 are Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins, both famous, mysterious, and familiar Irish figures.

The year 1921 is the year of the Irish Civil War and the year of the separation of Ireland into two nations, south and north. The central character is Henry Mooney, a journalist (based upon the author’s grandfather), who struggles for truth in his reporting during the terrible conflict, and falls in love with an Englishwoman in Ireland in the midst of political and military horrors.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The politics and factionalism behind the Rising are a tangled web indeed, but Llywelyn unravels them skillfully. Even those who know the story well will be surprised and rewarded by the way she brings back to life a group of brave men who went nobly to their deaths."

—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The betrayals, slaughters and passions of the day are all splendidly depicted as Llywelyn delivers a blow-by-blow account of the rebellion and its immediate aftermath. The novel’s…easy, gripping style will enthrall casual readers with what is Llywelyn’s best work yet."

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The task of transforming the events of the 1916 Irish Rebellion into coherent fiction would terrify most writers. Llywelyn (The Lion of Ireland; Red Branch), however, has produced a thunderous, informative read that rises to the challenge. Sticking to the historical facts and incorporating all the major historical figures, Llewelyn filters them through the experience of the fictional Ned Halloran, a young Titanic survivor whose lust for life takes on new meaning when he goes to the Irish-language school run by poet and schoolmaster Pdraic Pearse. Gaining a new appreciation of Irish culture, Ned also learns of Ireland's tragic, bloody history. He soon becomes aware that he is alive in a vibrant and epochal time, when the new century's potential inspires poets and revolutionaries to challenge the British Empire's colonial might. Ned falls in love and graduates from schoolboy to soldier. On Easter Monday, 1916, he is ready for the Rising itself, and (as happened on those famously unisex barricades) his sweetheart fights by his side. Battle scenes are both accurate and compelling. The betrayals, slaughters and passions of the day are all splendidly depicted as Llywelyn delivers a blow-by-blow account of the rebellion and its immediate aftermath. The novel's abundant footnotes should satisfy history buffs; its easy, gripping style will enthrall casual readers with what is Llywelyn's best work yet. Author tour. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Llywelyn's second novel in the series she inaugurated with 1916 (1998) furthers her investigation of Irish history by focusing on Ireland's struggle for freedom from Britain. This volume begins in 1917 in the aftermath of the Easter Rising and carries through to the civil war and the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. That Llywelyn knows her Irish history, culture, language and ambience is unquestionable. Unfortunately, in her attempt to amalgamate her encyclopedic knowledge of Ireland with the fictional adventures of Henry Mooney, a journalist torn between the traditional demands of family and personal ambition and his commitment to his country, she produces a story that is as dense as an Irish bog and nearly as confusing to navigate. Henry, a supporter of the Republican cause but a political moderate and neutral observer by nature, moves with alacrity among the various factions, apparently enjoying journalistic immunity as he uses his pen to further the Irish cause and attack the British. As the situation in the country deteriorates, Henry's personal life becomes more complex. Smitten with passionate S le Halloran, but unable to possess her since she is the wife of his best friend and Easter veteran Ned (protagonist of 1916), Henry falls in love with beautiful Anglo-Irish siren Ella Rutledge, further dividing his loyalties. Often sliding into essayistic prose, with footnotes supplementing the text, the novel depicts events and political developments in exhaustive detail. Though the account of the civil war is thorough and nuanced, readers of 1916 and other popular books by Llywelyn (Lion of Ireland; Bard, etc.) may be taken aback by the historical heft of this offering. (Mar.) Forecasts: Llywelyn is a popular writer and this book won't hurt her sales record, boosted as it will be by an excerpt in the mass market edition of The Last Prince of Ireland (due out March 1), an eight-city author tour, national ad/promo and the availability of a reading group guide (the book is caboosed by 17 pages of source notes and bibliography). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Llywelyn revisits the bloody Easter Rising of 1916. (LJ 2/15/98)
School Library Journal
YA-A novel set in Ireland at the time of the Easter Rebellion. Llywelyn tells the tale of 15-year-old Ned Halloran, a young Titanic survivor who lost both of his parents in that disaster. Upon his return to his native Ireland, he becomes embroiled in its rapidly changing political scene. The headmaster of his school is a renowned scholar and also a rebel and patriot for the Irish cause. Ned acts as a courier for the rebels, becoming more and more supportive of their struggle. The young man's coming-of-age is complicated by his feelings of nationalism, the love of several women, and his rescue of a young orphan during a street battle. YAs will get caught up in the excitement of this epic novel and root for Ned as he tries to save his comrades and fights side by side with the woman he loves.-Katherine Fitch, Lake Braddock Middle School, Burke, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A noted chronicler of Irish history and legend (Pride of Lions, 1996, etc.) here deals with the Easter Rising of 1916, as seen through the fictional adventures of a young man close to the inner circle of those working and fighting for Ireland's independence from England. When first introduced, teenager Ned Halloran is on his way to the US with his parents to attend the wedding of sister Kathleen to an Americanþthe ship is the Titanic. On his grieving return to Ireland, Ned, a farmer's son, is sent to St. Enda's, a school where Irish history, languageþand prideþare not only valued but taught with fervor. It's at St. Enda's that he meets the "conspiracy of poets," including Headmaster Padraic Pearse, who will become commander-in-chief during the Rising. Ned becomes acquainted with the many faces and phases of the rebellion against the "looting" and "occupying" English, while a plethora of movements begin to surface: the Sinn Fein (then standing for nonmilitary rebellion); the socialist Connolly's Citizen Army; and the Volunteer Corps. Ned joins the Fianna, a youth corps founded by the doughty Countess Markievicy (who, like the other real-life people here, makes a substantial appearance). In New York, meantime, sister Kathleen makes some unsettling discoveries: Her husband is a brute, contemptuous of her Irish nationalism, and Father Paul, a young priest, is stirring most unspiritual fires within. Back in the homeland, Ned is battling through an amorous dilemma: Is it to be a prim lady (an Anglophile) or a patriotic prostitute, the sister of a dead friend? The revolution heats up; Ned becomes a courier between the many groups and sectors; there are marches,spying, drillsþand finally terrible sacrifice. Llywelyn tells her tale with gusto and a respect for the facts; a good deal of both bizarre and somber history shines through the fictional fustian of its likable characters. (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765326935
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 2/15/2011
  • Series: Irish Century Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 467,936
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Morgan Llywelyn lives near Dublin, Ireland.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

On Sunday, April 5th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Morgan Llywelyn to discuss 1916.

Moderator: Welcome to the barnesandnoble.com live author Auditorium. Today Morgan Llywelyn, author of 1916, joins us for a live online chat. Good afternoon, Morgan Llywelyn! Welcome to our Auditorium. Do you have any opening comments for your readers?

Morgan Llywelyn: Yes, I do. I think the most important thing about this book, considering what is on the news these days, is the fact that it details the birth of the Irish Republican Army.

Henry from St. Petersburg, FL: I am only vaguely familiar with the events of 1916, and I am very interested to read your book. Could you tell us what events it deals with?

Morgan Llywelyn: The novel sets up the four years surrounding the Easter Rising, which would ultimately win Ireland's independence from England, and in the novel, I show how the diverse strands in both America and Ireland came together to effect this. The American organization known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood actually funded most of the Easter Rising, while in Ireland, a group of idealists, poets, and professors combined with the labor union movement to create the actual event. Simultaneously, through this history, I have run the fiction lives of a group of ordinary people whom the events impacted.

Harold from Oakland, CA: Your book describes the IRA at the time of the Easter Rising. Could you talk about how the ideologies of the IRA at that time differ from the images we have of them today in light of the Troubles in Northern Ireland? Do you think they are truly different organizations, or do we just have a different perception of them in modern times?

Morgan Llywelyn: I think the initial ideology -- that of chivalry, gallantry, decency, the protection of innocent life -- was a very noble one and one to which the IRA aspired for a long time; but the events following the partition of Ireland in 1922 resulted in mounting frustration among paramilitary organizations on both sides of the new border, created by partition. This resulted in mounting tensions, which began to change the actions of the IRA, if not their basic Republican ideal. Then, the last 30 years, since Bloody Sunday in Derry, has seen a shocking escalation of violence again by the paramilitaries on both sides, not just the IRA. This violence, I feel, feeds itself. It becomes a defining characteristic, which makes people forget about ideals in the rush to action. Therein lie the dangers. For the fringe elements, war is fun. Killing is a deadly game that a small percentage on both sides enjoy. So an evolution has taken place that has given the IRA as a whole a dreadful image, which actually should only apply to a part.

Michael from Bennington, VT: I can imagine that this subject is a sensitive one to write about, given that people in Ireland and Northern Ireland still have strong feelings, and in many ways their relationship to one another is still unresolved. What considerations did you take in writing this book to be sensitive to differing views and opinions?

Morgan Llywelyn: This, because it is a novel, has the advantage of allowing me to introduce fictional characters who will represent a wide variety of opinions. While the story is centered on the Republican movement and Ireland's struggle for independence, I also have my fictional characters demonstrate varying degrees of ambivalence toward what was happening. A fictional civil servant named Neville Grantham, for example, represents the point of view of British members of the government in Ireland who understood the reasons behind the rising while at the same time maintained a loyalty to Britain. A book like this one only serves a worthwhile purpose if it allows people to see the other person's point of view, and I have tried to do that insofar as I could, while telling the Republican story.

Ursula P. from Athens, GA: I read that you live in Ireland and have become an Irish citizen. Where are you originally from? If you are not originally from Ireland, how has an outsider's perspective influenced your writing of 1916?

Morgan Llywelyn: Good question! I was born in New York City of Irish parents, so I was always entitled to Irish citizenship. I moved back to Ireland in 1985 but have always had that added dimension of the American experience from which to look at Ireland. I think it helps. I think when you are totally immersed in a culture, it can be easy to forget the larger picture. Many people writing about Ireland, such as James Joyce, have done their best writing from abroad. I would not dream of comparing myself to Joyce, but I appreciate the opportunities I have as someone who has been a citizen of both worlds.

Benjamin A. from Bronx, NY: How did you decide on the characters you would use to tackle such a huge subject? I haven't read your book yet, but do you use real figures from history to describe the events in 1916, or do you create fictional characters? What are the benefits/drawbacks of using fictional versus historical characters?

Morgan Llywelyn: At the front of the book, I have a list of all the characters, first the fictional ones, and then all the historic ones. I wrote this book first as if I were writing a nonfiction history, relating the events and the people who made them in detail. Then I created fictional characters to weave through the history and represent ordinary people from different walks of life in Ireland in the period from 1912 to 1916. Each of the fictional characters represents something different. Male and female, they give a broad spectrum of the Irish society of the time and allow us to see the historic characters through their eyes. Dealing with this particular subject, I believe this is a good way of handling the material, in that I can tell the story of the historic characters without putting my own words and feelings into them. My viewpoint comes only through the fictional characters, leaving the historic ones to express their own viewpoints as they actually did.

Elke from Pittsburgh, PA: Did you learn anything in your research for 1916 that turned out to be different from commonly held attitudes or opinions about the events today?

Morgan Llywelyn: Absolutely! Because of the Troubles in the North, since Bloody Sunday, historical revisionism has taken place. Many of the younger people in Ireland today have grown up with an impression fostered by that revisionism. They have been encouraged to think of the leaders of the Easter Rising as bloodthirsty fools rather than as the great men and women they really were. This perception is certainly not universal in Ireland, but it does affect a percentage of the population and has been encouraged for political reasons, thus tying the Irish Republican Army to savage roots that it does not have.

George from Boynton Beach, FL: What sort of research did you do to write 1916? Did this differ from the research you've done for your other novels?

Morgan Llywelyn: I have been working on the research for 1916 for the last ten or eleven years, which meant doing a tremendous amount of reading and collecting of archival material. I have footnoted the book extensively so that readers can backtrack my research if they like. There is a very large bibliography included, and I was also fortunate enough to be given access to a number of private family papers, journals, letters, etc., that have not been published and may never be published. This very large volume of material helped me to understand what happened in 1916 as if I were really there rather than merely looking back upon it. Seen from inside, the events are very different than they would be if we were only looking back across 80 years.

Marion from Dayton, Ohio: How has your book been received in Ireland?

Morgan Llywelyn: So far, it is not yet in Ireland; it is just coming in now. It won't be officially published in Ireland until Easter week. I expect it to be controversial. I hope it will also be both informative and entertaining, but I am confident enough of the research that I don't really worry about its reception. People will like it or hate it, but I hope they'll read it with an open mind and stop for a minute to think about the men and women who won them their freedom.

Douglas Orman from Rochester, NY: Did your view of the events in 1916 change by the time you had finished the novel? In what way? How did you initially envision them, and how do you see them now?

Morgan Llywelyn: My view changed a lot. I had started the research from the common perception that we have in Ireland today. The research itself reeducated me, and I think that is what research should do. If you just find out things that support your initial concept, you haven't learned very much. By the time I had finished working on 1916, I realized just how much we lost with the execution of men like Patrick Pearse. Had he and James Connely lived, there might never have been partition. Ireland would be prosperous today anyway, but she might have a lot fewer scars.

Patricia from Cleveland, OH: What do you think lies behind the continuing violence in Northern Ireland?

Morgan Llywelyn: Firstly, let me say, it is not religious. The terms "Catholic" and "Protestant" are labels pasted on to justify greed, political expediency, a desire to retain privilege, a desire to retain status, and to some degree, a sheer joy in violence. The worst elements in human nature are always those which fuel this kind of conflict, and that is what makes it so hard to bring to an end.

Erin Fitzpatrick from Trenton, NJ: Looking at your backlist, it would appear that you don't usually write about history in the 20th century. How does it compare with, say, a history of the Celts in Ireland or writing about mythology? Can we expect more relatively modern historical novels from you in the future? Thanks, Erin.

Morgan Llywelyn: Yes, you can! I will be following 1916 with two more: 1921: THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE and 1949: THE IRISH REPUBLIC. Comparing it with writing about ancient Ireland, I feel like I have always been working my way toward this, trying to understand the forces that shaped us and made us the people we are today. In Ireland, at least, you have to understand the ancient past in order to have any understanding of modern history, so they do all connect.

Tom from Little Rock, Arkansas: What would Ireland be like today if the Easter Rising had never happened? Do you think some other event would have taken its place and everything would be the same as it is now, or do you think things would be drastically different if things had gone differently on that day?

Morgan Llywelyn: If the Easter Rising had never happened, Ireland today might be in the same position as Scotland: still part of the British Empire, still trying to establish a degree of autonomy within that empire, and therefore we would not have the remarkable prosperity we have achieved as a republic. Ireland in the last few years has been changed, changed utterly, into a Celtic tiger, and that could only have happened with independence. Some other event in the years leading up to the present day might have effected a drastic change in Ireland, but I cannot imagine one which would have been as profound as that resulting from the Rising and the War for Independence.

Elise from NYC: Did you see the film "Michael Collins"? What did you think of it? How does your account of the events differ from that portrayed in the film?

Morgan Llywelyn: I did see the film. I thought it was very good indeed. Ireland being Ireland, of course, Neil Jordan was criticized for what were seen as historical inaccuracies, but overall his interpretation of events and characters was quite good. My novel, 1916, covers the period preceding that of the film, however, and Michael Collins, in actuality, only played a minor role in the Easter Rising itself. His time was to come with the War for Independence. My major criticism of the film is that it did not tell enough about the historical context to enable people to understand what was going on, unless they already knew some Irish history. Something as important as the treaty was not even shown.

JWilliam from Evanston, IL: Do you expect that the second inquiry into Bloody Sunday will bring any closure, or is it expected to be yet another cover-up?

Morgan Llywelyn: I think the inquiry is necessary. It may not bring closure, because the wounds are so deep and the pain, in many ways, is still fresh, but anything that sets the record straight enables people to move forward. It is only misremembering that makes the past dangerous.

Moderator: Thank you, Morgan Llywelyn, for this interesting discussion of Ireland and your book 1916. Do you have any closing comments?

Morgan Llywelyn: I do! I want to thank all the people who asked such thought-provoking questions. They have reminded me why I wrote this book in the first place!

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Reading Group Guide


Morgan Llywelyn has brought the stirring depth and richness of Irish history and culture to life in a manner that few writers have ever accomplished. Her books have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and have been translated into dozens of languages. Among her most highly acclaimed historical novels are the stunning New York Times bestseller Lion of Ireland, chronicling the legend of the ancient Irish warriorking Brian Boru, and Pride of Lions, which continues that heroic epic with Boru’s young son Donough and his struggle to hold together his father’s kingdom.

Among the awards Morgan Llywelyn has received are the Poetry and Prose Award for Bard, and the Best Novel of the Year Award for The Horse Goddess from the National League of Penwomen and the American Library Association. The Horse Goddess was also named a Book-of-the Month Club Selection, as was her The Last Prince of Ireland. She lives in Ireland.


“Whereas the Irish people is by right a free people: 

And whereas for seven hundred years the Irish people have never ceased to repudiate and has repeatedly protested in arms against foreign usurpation:

And whereas English rule in this country is, and always has been, based upon force and fraud and maintained by military occupation against the declared wish of the people:

We solemnly declare foreign government in Ireland to be an invasion of our national right which will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrsion:

In the name of the Irish people we humbly commit our destiny to Almighty God who gave our fathers the courage and determination to persevere through long centuries of a ruthless tyranny, and strong in the justice of the cause which they have handed down to us, we ask His Divine blessing on this last stage of the struggle we have pledged ourselves to carry through to freedom.”

—from the Irish Declaration of Independence

For more than seven hundred years, the Irish people suffered beneath the yoke of British subjugation, their national identity stolen away by their English overlords. Throughout the long centuries, however, the vibrant spirit of the Irish was never broken, and while the celebrated Easter Rising of 1916 may have ended in failure, the harshness of the English response merely served to set the stage for the next irresistible struggle for Irish freedom.

In bestselling novelist Morgan Llywelyn the Irish have finally found their own vibrant voice for history. With 1921, Llywelyn has combined her consummate storytelling skill with impeccable research to vividly recreate the turbulent struggle for Irish independence after the First World War. Seamlessly meshing fictional and historical characters into an unforgettable epic, Morgan Llywelyn chronicles the rise of Sinn Fein and the IRA, unabashedly relating the indiscriminate violence and unsung heroism that would result in the founding of the Irish republic. Richly detailed and moving, 1921 is a story of blood and sacrifice, tragedy and ultimate triumph, which unmistakably shows why Morgan Llywelyn is today’s preeminent writer of Irish historical fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2010

    How is this different from the 2001 edition?

    I have read everything by Morgan Llywellyn so when I got my mass e-mail saying that one of my favorite authors was coming out with something new I got excited. However, I've read this book. It was the second book in the Irish Century series and it was originally published in 2001. Is this a revamped edition? Because the original story was awesome the way it was written. The only complaint I've ever had is that the proofreaders and editors are sleeping on the job at Tom Doherty Associates.

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