The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd
Read June 11, 2010 – ongoing
Paperback edition, 776 pages
Published by Ballatine, 2004
When I first moved to Seattle, I didn’t have any friends; and although I lived at home and wouldn’t exactly call myself lonely, spending every non-working minute with my mom and step-dad was virtually unbearable, so I made many a pilgrimage to the local bookstore. I ended up impulse buying a ridiculous number of novels, many of which are still in my TBR pile.
One of the books I purchased during this time was The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga. I honestly have no idea why I bought it. First of all, the book is 776 pages long and I have a horrible track record with books of that length–just ask Anna Karinena and The Count of Monte Cristo, neither of which I finished, or The Mists of Avalon which took me almost two years to complete. Secondly, the book spans eleven centuries of Irish history. Aside from Tudor fiction, I am not usually successful when reading historical fiction, besides which, ELEVEN CENTURIES???? How can that be THAT interesting for 776 pages. 776 abnormally large pages. I bought it on a whim, tossed it on a bookshelf, and there it has sat for the past two years.
But wow! Monday I picked up the book, and I immediately fell in love. I’ve only read through page 170, but already I can name this book amoungst my favorites. I think I would read anything by Edward Rutherfurd at this point.
Rutherford opens the novel with an enchanting and loving description of Ireland’s unbelievably verdant landscape. Ireland becomes another character of the novel, an entity unto itself–perhaps the most important character of the whole novel. Somehow not only does he truthfully describe the land, but he also maintains Ireland’s innate mysticism. As you read the prologue you almost believe that Ireland was indeed home to leprechauns and fairies and nymphs; that the druids actually possessed magical powers, that the ancient kings of the land might actually be mythic gods of yore. I was captivated by his deeply moving description of the sun rising across the Irish hillsides, first appearing on the far eastern horizon over the ocean and then alighting on the tomb of a long dead king.
From there he begins his narration of the story of Deirdre and Conall. More poignant than any fairytale or folktale, I was brought to tears twice on the airplane. I love stories that make me cry. Plus, I have always been quite the morbid person–as a child I killed off most of the characters in the stories I would write; I have no idea why teachers weren’t alarmed at my attrition rate–and I love when authors murder their own creations. Rutherfurd did not disappoint.
I’ve absolutely flown through the first 170 pages and have loved how between generations in Rutherfurd’s novel, stories of the previous generations are slowly transformed by other characters into the tall tales of legend. By mirroring the actual development of a people’s oral history, a certain authenticity is lended to Rutherfurd’s creation. I also have loved learning about Nuadu the Silver-handed, whose hand was cut off during a battle the replaced with a prosthetic fabricated from silver. Nuadu could not be named High King until his Silverhand once again transformed to flesh. In Donna Napoli’s Hush, a minor character named Nuada has his hand cut off in a scrum with a Viking warrior. I am completely enchanted by the corresponding mythologies of these two novels. It’s almost as if one lends believability to the other. I just wish I had a firmer grasp on Irish folklore so that I could pick up on more allusions to ancient Irish religion and mythology.
Needless to say, I think you, dear reader, should read this novel. The Rebels of Ireland and London have officially been added to my TBR list, and Russka might also have to be added. Rutherfurd has captivated me.