Monday, September 21, 2015

Only With Blood by Therese Down

This novel takes us to another place and another time, Ireland during WW II. It is a dark time of hatred and anger, yet with surprising moments of love.

Caitlin is an intelligent young woman nearing the end her her studies in the village. She longs to go to university. Her father is a wily man and sees the opportunity to make some money when old farmer Jack needs a wife. As is said about Caitlin, she is “being forced to swallow someone else's reality.” (103) Certainly not fluffy reading. Added to that part of the depressing story is that of IRA activists, ready to kill traitors colluding with the British.

This is not a light and fluffy novel. It deals with some serious issues. Caitlin was essentially sold into marriage by her greedy father. That was hard to read. Also hard to read about was the angry men. Many of the fathers were angry and abusive Irish men. Those with a childhood having an angry father may have difficulty reading the book, as I did.

I didn't like the structure of the novel. It includes many flashbacks as we learn about the background of the characters. These flashbacks are not in chronological order and I found that hindered my enjoyment of the novel. Regarding Jack's childhood, we have a flashback that tells the circumstances of his mother leaving. Then a few pages later we have another flashback of an incident when his mother was still there. The same kind of nonchronological story telling happened in the novel itself. In one scene, a friend of Caitlin's tells her about the new handsome maths teacher, Donal. (208) The book had been following his story off and on and this development was a surprise to me. But then five pages later we read of Donal being told the maths position is open, after which he apparently successfully applies for the job. (213) This kind of writing style was not conducive to smooth character development. It felt more like character ping pong to me.

I would recommend this novel to those interested in the social setting of Ireland during WW II. If one is not bothered by the seemingly hap hazard way flashbacks are given, it is an informative novel. And there is a wonderful surprise at the end I was not expecting. I would not describe this as a particularly "Christian" book, but it does give insight into the spirituality of the Catholics in Ireland at the time.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Therese Down has taught English language and literature for over twenty years. She lives in Worcestershire.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U.S. By Kregel), 320 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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