“The Woman On The Bridge” by Sheila O’Flanagan – Book Review

Sheila O’Flanagan has accomplished what many have tried and few have been successful at doing. She has put a human face on Ireland’s history while making all the myriad allegiances, battles, uprisings, rebellions, and suffering understandable to the lay reader. It is obvious that this novel was intensely researched in addition to the wealth of the author’s own family archives.Just how understandable is it when a fight for freedom from British rule morphs into a devastating civil war? A war where friend turns on friend, where even families are divisive in their principles and their beliefs.

The protagonist of this story was loosely based upon the life of the author’s grandmother. A strong woman who was swept up in events not of her choosing, yet keeping her own beliefs and strong personality throughout. Winnie O’Leary lives with her family in Dublin. Starting in 1920, we follow her throughout her life, through Bloody Sunday and the Irish War of Independence, then the Irish Civil War, when her husband was jailed as a political prisoner for his partisan leanings.

Winnie wants a quiet life, yet her every waking moment is fraught with deep seated anxiety. Worry about her family, her friends, and her country. Day to day life brings its own kind of obstacles. Curfews, the lack of housing and nutritious food, are all issues that Winnie must deal with while trying to bring up her five children.

Winnie is a feminist born before her time. She wants education for her daughters. She advocates for family planning and birth control. She believes that women who do not want to be mothers should be supported in their quest for work outside the home.

With so much worry, strain, and genuine anguish, one would assume Winnie’s story was a bleak one, yet she remained positive and hopeful. That mindset is what saw her through some desperate situations.

Many, many themes are covered in this novel. The travesty of war, particularly civil war. The hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. The social disadvantages of women in the 1920s and 1930s. Tuberculosis that ravaged the Irish population during this time.

I highly recommend this novel to any reader who wants to learn more about Irish history and enjoys a good accompanying family saga which eases the didactic nature of most historical tomes.

While I’m writing this review I’m listening to a tin whistle rendering of the Irish ballad “Boolavogue” which is mentioned in the book.

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 Headline Review via Anne Cater for Random Things Tours.

ISBN: 9781035402779 –  ASIN: B0B9MH89NF –  448 pages

Published June 6, 2023 in North America – Published April 27, 2023 in United Kingdom

Sheila O’Flanagan pursued a very successful career in banking, foreign exchange dealing and treasury management before becoming a full-time writer based in Dublin. She also writes a weekly column for the Irish Times and in her spare time plays badminton at competition level.

She was born in Dublin, Ireland and is the best-selling and award-winning author of over thirty novels.

Connect with Sheila via her website, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

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 Blog Tour, Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Political fiction, Random Things Tours (Anne Cater), war stories and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to “The Woman On The Bridge” by Sheila O’Flanagan – Book Review

  1. Carla says:

    Excellent review, Lynne. I know a lot about the civil war in the US, but not about other places in the world. I did visit Ireland and really enjoyed my black cab tour in Belfast where we saw the Peace Walls and some other significant sites. Of course, tour guide had his own biases. I think I would very much enjoy this book.


  2. This sounds like a really good book. By the way, I’m currently reading a novel that had been on my TBR list for years: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. It’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: “The Lady On The Bridge” di Sheila O’Flanagan – Recensione libro @headlinebooks @headlinepg @sheilaoflanagan #TheWomanOnTheBridge #BookReview @RandomTTours #BlogTour@sheila – My Blog

  4. Love the sound of this Lynne, I definitely want to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In my pile…must get to it! Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

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