‘So long ago… a different world, Liam… How the fuck are ye, and what the fuck are ye doin’ in that get up?’ his voice took on an angry edge.
Liam leaned the rifle against the wall and sat on the bed, suddenly ashamed.
‘I’ve been asking myself the same question a lot these days. I’m sorry I ever got involved with this shower. How are you – apart from hidin’ out in attics, I mean?’
‘I heard you were back, but I didn’t believe what they were sayin’ – you, a Tan…?’
‘It’s a long story. I was in a bad fix in England and thought I’d found a way out.’
‘Well ye got that wrong.’
‘I know. I’m just tryin’ to figure a way out of it all.’
Frank picked up the Lee Enfield and studied it, a professional admiring another man’s tool. ‘What’s to figure? Just go – join me and the boys… put this thing to proper use,’ he said, shaking the rifle. ‘We’re fightin’ for our lives. We need good men, Liam; and you’re one of the best I know, in or out of that stupid fuckin’ uniform. Typical of the Brits, can’t even get a jacket and trousers to match and they still expect to rule this country. The arrogance…’
Liam smiled. ‘Still the same Francie…’
‘That’s Captain Cleary to you, boy, I’ve been elevated,’ he grinned. ‘Look, you can’t stay with that lot, it’s all wrong… fight for your country not these thugs. You’re needed… mind you, it’d take some convincin’ the lads you weren’t some manner of spy, soft head that ye are, but I’d bring them round. What d’ye say?’ the grin was gone and the eyes were deadly serious.
Tan by David Lawlor is one of those rare novels that jumps the more frequented time of the Easter Rising and delves into the painful time that follows in Irish history: the War of Indipendence. As all wars fought at home, this is a time that tasted people in more than one way. A man or a woman had to be really certain of their stance to go through such times.
David Lawlor clearly knows these time very well. His depiction not just of the events, but of the feelings of people and their reasons are so naturally entwined with the story that it’s almost a given. And some of the events described are so detailed and personalthat it almost suggests me they come from true oral history. In spite of the very sparse style, this is a story that involves because of the sheer power of its subject matter.
It is a very ‘male’ story, and I actually appreciated this. In a time where writing strong female characters seem to be the thing to do (and there are a few strong female characters in this story, don’t be misled!), I appreciate the choice to go in a different direction.
It’s a ‘male’ story not just because most of the characters are men doing men’s stuff (namely, war), but because of the kind and quality of the relationships depicted: father and son, brotherly love and friendship and betrayal, virile camaraderie and rivalry. But it also touches more universal themes of love and betrayal, of alienation and belonging.
It’s a good story. Read it!
This post is part of the Ireland Reading Month organised by 746 Books and The Fluff Is Raging blogs.
“Last year we hosted a whopping 130 posts on all things relating to Irish culture. Books, food, travel, movies, theatre and favourite bookshops – your enthusiasm was boundless and so was your reading.
So this year we hope to be bigger and better.