ORNA ROSS is an award-winning writer, an advocate for independent authors and other creative entrepreneurs, and “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing” [The Bookseller]. She writes novels, poems and nonfiction guides for creatives, and is Founder-Director of two popular online communities, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and The Creativist Club. She lives in London and writes, publishes and teaches around the globe. When not writing, you’ll probably find her reading.
My thoughts: I’ve spent a lot of time studying the early 20th century – the First World War, the Russian revolution, but curiously never the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland and the turbulent events that followed. It doesn’t even get mentioned. Which is weird considering how many people I know with Irish parents and grandparents, North London has a huge Irish community, but we learnt virtually nothing about our nearest neighbour and the first victim of the British desire for empire.
“The Irish Question” goes all the way back to the Tudors, Henry VIII was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (a job Churchill would later hold during the 1920s, when parts of this book are set).
Moving back and forth in time, Jo slowly unravels the secrets and sadness hidden in the heart of her family. Her grandmother’s fervent Republicanism, the tragic death of her brother Barney, the suffering of Auntie Norah, and why her mother was so horrified when she fell in love with Rory O’Donovan.
Jo’s relationship with her mother – Mrs D, is fraught with barely concealed anger, they’re so alike they clash constantly, and the past continues to intrude into their lives. The history that shaped the Republic of Ireland also shaped the family, and left them with wounds that haven’t healed.
Jo is fiercely independent and it is only when going through the letters and diaries her mother bequeaths her, finding out how the turbulent years of the early 1900s impacted her family so directly, that she starts to realise that it’s ok to need people, like her sister Maeve.
Book three, In The Hour, is due out next year and fills in more of the missing story of Jo’s family, this time of her absentee father. This is an epic and powerful, moving family saga, that is also an incredible history of Ireland, something that should be more widely taught and learnt from.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.