Tipperary by Frank Delaney - Book Review

Tipperary reads like a historical love poem to Ireland. The story is not the sort of historical fiction where history rides alongside the characters; it’s a tale where history itself IS the story. Unless you’ve strong knowledge of Irish history and its personalities, you’d better have reference sources ready. Several times I must admit to regressing to the dreadful Wikipedia search.

The protagonist, Charles O’Brien, is an early twentieth-century Irish Forrest Gump. A common man, with good manners and a kind heart, Charles wanders the historical steps of late 19th and early 20th centuries. His travels eventually land him in London, at the deathbed of Oscar Wilde, where he’s introduced to the love of his life. Celebrities and politicians, art and culture, history and war, all meander adjacent to Charles as he pines for his one true love.

Author Frank Delaney has an innate sense of what makes Irish folk tick. The celebrities, as well as the common folk, spring from the pages in their eccentricity and quirk. But with so many souls passing across the stage, character investment does take a bit of time.

Delaney also understands the importance of plot twists. Each twist can be seen as a separate stanza in the love poem to Ireland. Just when all is settled, much like real-life, a wrench comes flying on stage.

My one qualm is also the writer’s greatest treat. He uses alternating narrators, a difficult device for writers. I’m left wondering why the contemporary narrator waited to reveal his investment in the tale. Was this for dramatic emphasis in a dragging middle ground? Could we not have known his alignment to the story sooner, his quest for answers riding alongside as we read each passage from Charlie’s memoir? I honestly feel that holding the narrator’s introduction to the latter third of the story could have afforded an even grander climax. I saw no ‘special’ significance of his entering at the moment Delaney prescribed.

The long tale ends strong and poignant, if a bit contrived. We get to witness Charles O’Brien’s life to its happy end and Ireland’s hope of possibility. Tipperary is an enjoyable and enlightening read, especially for admirers of historical fiction or Ireland.

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Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?


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