I’m obsessed by the era surrounding the First World War and I love historical fiction and Irish writers so when I realised that Denise Deegan’s Through the Barricades hit every one of these elements I had to invite her onto Linda’s Book Bag. Through the Barricades was published on 2nd December 2016 and is available for purchase in paperback and e-book here.
Through the Barricades
She was willing to sacrifice everything for her country.
He was willing to sacrifice everything for her.
‘Make a difference in the world,’ are the last words Maggie Gilligan’s father ever says to her. They form a legacy that she carries in her heart, years later when, at the age of fifteen, she tries to better the lives of Dublin’s largely forgotten poor.
‘Don’t go getting distracted, now,’ is what Daniel Healy’s father says to him after seeing him talking to the same Maggie Gilligan. Daniel is more than distracted. He is intrigued. Never has he met anyone as dismissive, argumentative… as downright infuriating.
A dare from Maggie is all it takes. Daniel volunteers at a food kitchen. There, his eyes are opened to the plight of the poor. It is 1913 and Dublin’s striking workers have been locked out of their jobs. Their families are going hungry. Daniel and Maggie do what they can. Soon, however, Maggie realises that the only way to make a difference is to take up arms.
The story of Maggie and Daniel is one of friendship, love, war and revolution, of two people who are prepared to sacrifice their lives: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their mutual sacrifices put them on opposite sides of a revolution. Can their love survive?
A Guest Post by Denise Deegan
When Linda – kindly – invited me to do a guest post she said:
‘I feel there is something very special about the literature that comes out of Ireland. Is it the sense of community there? Is it the legacy of great Irish writers? Is there a history, culture and tradition of tale-telling? Is there something about the Blarney Stone tradition tied up with the concept of narrative perhaps? Is it the rain which means finding indoor pursuits is a necessary evil? Are the Irish obsessed with stories?’
I blame the rain – for everything. The End.
I don’t actually think the rain affects my writing. I do think it affects the personality of the Irish, though, so perhaps in that blurry way it does impact on our stories. We are a very accepting, race. We just get on with it – rain or shine.
Of all Linda’s suggestions, I think that the history, culture and tradition of tale-telling is perhaps the most powerful influence. As a Celtic nation, we have passed down our traditional stories for hundreds of years – great stories – like the one about the boy who gained the wisdom of the world by tasting a particular salmon, or the tale about the lovers who travelled to a land where no one ages, or the one about the stepmother who cast a spell on her stepsons transforming them into swans. I have included some of these stories in Through the Barricades, because a) I love them and b) they are important to the novel which is very much about identity as a driving force in the fight for freedom.
Irish history in general also plays a role, I believe. For hundreds of years, we were ruled by another nation. In 1695, ‘Penal Laws’ were introduced which forbade Irish Catholics (the vast majority of the population) from practicing their religion, educating their children, owning land, having a trade…. What did we do as a people? We carried on educating our children and practising our religion – in the fields. Our stories became more important than ever in terms of our identity. We clung to them. When I visit schools to deliver story workshops, I remind the children of how storytelling is in our blood. It is very motivating.
Our history is sad, our stories the same. But. We have always been able to laugh in the face of our troubles and that is something that shines strongly in our stories. Some of my favourite scenes in Through the Barricades are at the front-line in WW1. The banter between the soldiers stuck in this terrible situation can be very humourous and warm. One character later points out that that is how you tell an Irishman on the front-line. Humour slips into our writing because it is part of who we are. We laugh in the face of the rain. We laugh in the face of oppression. We laugh – a lot.
I also – perhaps bizarrely – think that there is something magical in the air, here. I have spoken to writers from other countries who, when they visit Ireland, discover that their stories just flow. I experience it myself. In certain places – for example an artists’ retreat I visit in Monaghan – it feels as if I am a channel for stories that are coming from another dimension. This is a mystical place to live and write. And I am very grateful for that.
Thanks for the great questions, Linda. Really made me think.
And thank you for such fabulous responses Denise!
About Denise Deegan
Denise Deegan lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies. She has a Masters in Public Relations and has been a college lecturer, nurse, china restorer, pharmaceutical sales rep, public relations executive and entrepreneur. Denise’s books have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. Denise writes contemporary family dramas under the pen name Aimee Alexander. They have become international best-sellers on Kindle.