This book really does straddle two reading groups. Because of the age of the protagonists it fits the fluent readers group. However, complex issues, including politics, and sophisticated language make it also suitable for the older reader.
Emer Davey and Jack Madigan are members of a close circle of friends. Emer saves Jack from drowning. Emer’s father is a member of the Irish Volunteers, who are fighting for a free Ireland and Jack’s is a member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who has to keep law and order for the British. During the uprising Emer’s father is shot and Jack’s is kidnapped. Jack and Emer stage a daring rescue to get Sergeant Madigan out of the clutches of the Irish Volunteers. Friendship proves to be stronger than politics.
All of the characters are interesting. The really poor Gerry lives with his uncle. Joan ends up marrying an American naval officer. Gladys is a model student and goes on to be a teacher. Phelim and Brother McGill are ardent nationalists. Miss Clarke is a teacher who really gets her students to think. Sister Assupmta is a stickler for discipline and routine. All of these characters are fictitious but they are made to seem all the more real when Brian Gallagher gives us an epilogue at the end of the story that tells us what happens to the children when they grow up. Of course the Easter Rising is a real piece of history.
The story should provoke a few talking points.
The novel is 235 pages long but has endpapers which contain the epilogue and an historical note from the writer. There is as short biography of him at the beginning.
The text is blocked with a serif font that has difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s.