The second part of Monaghan’s trilogy (following 'A Soldier's Song'), charting the adventures of Stephen Ryan through the Great War, the Armistice and the War of Independence, is a stirring tale of love, courage, betrayal and redemption. At its centre is working-class Dubliner Ryan, a gifted mathematics student who joins the Fusiliers and distinguishes himself in France while his rebel brother shoots up the GPO at home.
This second instalment, with echoes of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, begins with an injured Ryan back home, but soon to be returned to the frontline. Demobbed, he faces other demons. Before you can say ‘Michael Collins’, Ryan is caught up in the Troubles and troubled by his past.
Monaghan spins a good yarn and this entertaining mix of history, adventure and romance features cameos from Collins, DeValera and the Cairo gang. It all neatly sets up volume three, which should be another blast.