Stephen didn’t answer. ‘Whichever way things go in there’. What if it didn’t come to a war? What if the Treaty was accepted? That wouldn’t get him off the hook, either. He could hardly just walk away and leave them to it. Whether he liked it or not, he was part of it now.
“Look, you don’t have to answer straight away,” Dalton went on, his voice lower, an insistent whisper. “I know you’ll need to talk about it. But we ‘want’ you, Stephen. Our terms would be generous. You can start with the same rank you had when you were demobbed – captain, wasn’t it? And it would be a short commission; you can resign if you get your old job back.”
“General Dalton!” a shout came from back down the corridor. Somebody had leaned out of a doorway and was beckoning furiously.
“Well, think about it anyway,” Dalton said as he turned to leave. “We need men like you.”
“What was that about?” Lillian asked when Stephen sat back down.
“I don’t think you want to know.”
Before she could press him further, Billy reappeared. He was walking slowly and looked dazed.
“Well?” Stephen asked. “Have they finished the vote?”
“They have.” Billy sat down heavily on the end of the chair. “It passed!”
“Oh thank God!” Lillian laughed, relieved.
“It passed, but only by seven votes,” Billy went on, despair in his voice. “Sixty-four to Fifty-seven. The Dáin is split – the country is split. Christ, what a mess!”
At that moment the doors to the chamber burst open and the deputies came streaming out. To a man they looked shocked and angry. After the first rush the crowd thinned and Stephen could see the dais at the far end of the chamber. He saw Collins standing up, his head cocked towards Emmet Dalton and his face stern and forbidding. His back was turned to Eamon de Valera, who was still slumped in his chair, his face in his hands and his whole body heaving with sobs.”
The Soldier’s Farawell by Alan Monaghan is the third novel in a trilogy. I didn’t know it when I picked it up, but I read it with ease, I never felt I was missing pieces.
It tells of a part of Irish history that is seldom addressed: not the days of the Easter Rising, but rather the days that followed, the Civil War that bloodied the country for four years afterward. Not a pleasant part of history and you really feel it reading the novel. Brother turning against brother, old allies turning into enemies. It was a violent time where human lives really counted for nothing.
It’s a very intense part of history, so it’s kind of a shame that the Stephen’s story doesn’t really merge in it completely, and this is true for all characters. All the characters in the story seem to go with the flow of the historical events, rather than following their own personal arc, and I think this is why I wasn’t completely involved in the story. There was always a sense of detachment, I never deeply cared for any of them. Events are also quite episodic, I never had a sense of the whole.
Still, it was a pleasant read. I mean, I read the entire novel in spite of my issue above, and this because the writing style is easy and smooth. There are many, very well described scenes of war, a view mini-arc episodes that got me involved enough to keep reading.
It could have been a far more involving read, but it was an enjoyable one nonetheless