Shannon, by Frank Delaney *****

 shannon

Frank Delaney has done it again.

There are some writers that have such a gift for spinning a compelling tale while seamlessly weaving in subplots that the rest of us can but applaud. He’s clearly one of them. I was spellbound by his Ireland, but there are a lot of people with one remarkable book in them. I was surprised again, then, at how good Tipperary was. Now this.

Everything I’ve read by Delaney thus far (including Shannon) is set in some part of Ireland for most of the novel. He favors the period when the whole world is changing–World War I is either imminent, taking place, or we’re in the aftermath; Ireland struggles for her own freedom, and he doesn’t gloss over the errors and tragedies that go with this struggle–and I mentally note that it’s also the period of the Russian Revolution. He’s done a whole lot of research so that he can provide his novels with a rich, accurate background. His target audience is one with an interest in Irish history, but he is never dry, never lapses into the lecture-like style that I’ve seen in some writers who are specialists in a given academic area use when the narrative aims at their area of expertise. It’s riveting clean through. The people, whatever their station in life (we have several members of the Catholic clergy and a nurse foremost) are individuals first.

If you have a strong anti-Catholic bias, you may not like this story. There are some Catholic bad guys, for sure, though they aren’t two-dimensional ones, but you won’t see the pedophiles that have been the sole focus of the mainstream US press where Catholics are concerned. Rather, there are those who are corrupt ladder-climbers; there’s (oh my god) an assassin; and the protagonist, Robert Shannon, who is recovering from PTSD, then known as “shell shock”.

Altogether, I found it nearly magical. I will read anything that Delaney writes at this point; he’s that good!

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