“After the Rising” by Orna Ross – Book Review #ReadingIrelandMonth21

Twenty years ago, Jo Devereux fled Mucknamore, the small Irish village where she grew up, driven away by buried secrets and hatreds. Now she is back and needs to uncover the truth of what really happened between her family and their friends, the O’Donovans, during the bitter Irish Civil War of 1922.

The consequences of that conflict carried down into Jo’s own life, shattering her relationship with Rory O’Donovan, the only man she ever loved.

And driving her from her homeland, swearing she would never return.

Now, Jo’s estranged mother has died, leaving her a suitcase full of letters and diaries that raise searing questions about the past. Was her great-uncle really murdered by Dan O’Donovan, his best friend? If yes, why? And what part did her beloved grandmother play in this conflict that followed so soon after the Irish war of independence, when those who had won partial freedom for their country turned their guns on each other?

And why did nobody ever talk about that time?

Much to her own surprise, Jo finds herself staying on in Ireland, determined to disinter buried secrets and find the answers she seeks.

Over the course of a long, hot summer, she is astonished at the truths she uncovers about her grandmother and great-aunt, their part in Ireland’s fight for freedom, and the repercussions that resounded through her own life.

The consequences of a cold-blooded murder are still ricocheting down through the generations, as history begins to repeat itself. Rory, who still lives in Mucknamore and is mired in an unhappy marriage, draws Jo close again.

The strength of her feelings frightens her, but past pain makes her cautious, as does reading their shared family histories. She knows too well how the passion of rebellion sweeps people up — but has learned that the most important question is what happens after the rising.

Can Jo be true to herself, and also to the family she rejected when she was young and headstrong? Might this second chance of happiness reclaim the love once lost to them all?

After The Rising is a sweeping, multi-generational tale set in the 1920s and 1990s Ireland and 1970s London. It is the first book in The Irish Trilogy.

This book was very easy to get into. The first scenes depict Jo Devereux’s hasty return to Ireland just barely in time for her mother’s funeral. From there we discover a little about Jo’s life in the United States and a bit about the family’s dynamic. The Parles, her Catholic family, owned a pub and store in County Wexford which served as the hub of the village.

Then, when she is given the suitcase with all the letters and documents left to her by her late mother and grandmother, the novel goes back in time to her grandmother’s life – a time when Ireland’s history was tumultuous, bloody, and divisive.The book was hard to follow at times due to the myriad characters within its pages. The prose was very well rendered and the story put a personal slant to the Irish/English conflict. Looking toward independence from English rule, the Irish Republicans had a significant number of women contributing toward their cause, despite the socio-economic status of woman of that time. The letters and diaries of Jo’s Gran (Peg) were written around the time of the 1916 Easter Rising. Other papers relate to Peg’s later life and included snippets about her dear friend Norah, and her heroic brother Barney.

Peg went on to have a daughter, Máirín who was Jo Devereaux’s mother. Family ephemera and yellowed newspaper clippings relate the long conflict and violent history of Ireland from the Irish Civil War leading up all the way to the time of the ‘Troubles‘.Jo takes time off work and lingers on in her home town of Mucknamore where she compiles and organizes the contents of the suitcase to write her own family’s history as well as how it relates to the history of Ireland. Also, during that time she reunites with her first love, Rory O’Donovan, a man who has never forgotten her, yet is married to someone else and is a father.

I identified with certain aspects of the story, especially the scenes where Jo is a student in a school taught by nuns – as I was up until age fourteen.

The story was compelling, though the pacing was inconsistent. I found it raced by in places and dragged in others. The book was a blend of contemporary and historical fiction which shed a lot of light on Irish political and social history via the perspective of one family’s contribution to the events that enfolded.

After the Rising” was a compassionate, fictional tale of the impact of the Irish conflict on successive generations. Recommended for Irish history buffs and fans of multi-generational family sagas.

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the author.

Orna Ross is an award-winning and bestselling novelist and poet who explores histories and mysteries through her poetry books and literary historical murder mysteries.

Born and raised in Co. Wexford, in the south-east of Ireland, Orna considers herself to be a world citizen. She now lives in London, where she and Philip Lynch, her husband of 30+ years, run ALLi together from their home office and the Free Word Centre in Farringdon, “a home for organisations interested in who gets to speak and be heard in society”.

When not running ALLi, penning poems, or conjuring tales about murderous families of centuries past, Orna enjoys yoga and meditation, jogging and dancing, cinema and theatre, trekking and traveling, and hanging out with her friends and her—surprisingly non-homicidal!—family.

Orna’s experience as an author-publisher working with thousands of other indie authors has made her a passionate advocate for self-publishing as artistic expression, as a viable business option for authors, and as a necessary skill for everyone in today’s digital, networked economy. A creative facilitator and advocate for creative independence through self-publishing and online creative business, she also writes (and publishes) publishing guides and creative business guides for authors and creative entrepreneurs.


About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Family sagas, Historical fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “After the Rising” by Orna Ross – Book Review #ReadingIrelandMonth21

  1. Pingback: Reading Ireland Month: Week 4 round-up

  2. Mischenko says:

    Getting lost with too many characters happens to me sometimes, and it’s most often what causes me to give up and start something else. This still sounds pretty good though. Excellent review! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s