My Review of “Never Be At Peace” by M.J. Neary

Never Be At PeaceNever Be At Peace by M. J. Neary (published by Fireship Press)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once more Marina Julia Neary has proven she is an expansive writer, adept at handling a multitude of characters with honesty and imagination, intelligence and wit, engagement but also objectivity. Ms. Neary is ambitious and alert like a spider spinning a sticky web connecting many storylines into a saga spanning nearly forty years replete with twists of fate, theatrical egos, sexual maneuverings, impetuous love affairs, misbegotten off-spring, and impassioned if ambiguous conflicts in the protracted fight for Ireland’s independence that made history for textbooks and neglect.

As large as Ms. Neary’s storytelling is, it remains intimate and nuanced throughout with enjoyable and often insightful descriptions of the characters’ appearance and dress, what and even how they eat, their mannerisms and quirks, the places they haunt, and all kinds of details that make them real, ridiculous, amusing, talented and tragic but never larger than life. Yeats, Maud Gonne, Countess Constance Marckiewicz, James Connolly and any number of legendary individuals are drawn irresistibly conscionable and culpable, but not more so than the novel’s lesser-known figures—such as the feminist, activist, journalist and actress, Helena Molony.

Never Be At Peace pauses and moves along with verbose dialogue and distinct staging, unfolding with various personal and public dramas as though they are equally significant (and insignificant?); at least with the sense that they may be separated in dry facts but not in the human context of historic events. The informational aspect to Ms. Neary’s approach to historical fiction is more about style than didacticism. If it teaches anything, it is that nothing is what it seems—especially not history or heroism, loyalty or love.

Although writing about a similar progression of events as in her previous novel, Martyrs and Traitors, Ms. Neary has skillfully created a newly compelling story that has the reader forgetting they have been there before. Just as in life, so much is in the eye of the beholder. Never Be At Peace, despite its distractions and detours, is Helena Molony’s story: a testament to her courage and stumbling on her personal and civic passage through life, allowing the reader to breathe with relief for her vulnerability, forgive her “mistakes” and hope for a renewal of the vitality of her purpose. Yet, even as the novel represents Helena’s specific journey it highlights the experience of many women born or somehow persuaded to take outstanding roles in society, in relationships and even revolutions.

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Hope 2015 is getting off to a positive start for all!

Guest Post: Marina Julia Neary – Meet My Main Character Blog Tour

Marina Julia Neary was one of the authors I tagged for the “Meet My Main Character” blog tour I participated in last week. If you haven’t already, you can read my post here.

As Marina doesn’t have her own blog at this time, I’m happy to host her post on mine.

Purple2In breaking a little from the rules for this blog tour, Marina will be ‘talking’ about the main character of her recently released novel,  Never Be At Peace, published by Fireship Press. It is a companion piece to Martyrs and Traitors  published by All Things That Matter Press in  2011. You can read my review here. I’m certainly looking forward to reading her new one!

Here’s a synopsis:

Never Be At Peace by Marina Julia Neary

Never Be At Peace by Marina Julia Neary

A pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices. In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

Some early reviews:

“M. J. Neary’s Never Be at Peace is a gripping and intense tale of Ireland in the thick of revolution. Told from the perspectives of the brave and uncompromising men and women involved in the fight for independence, it will delight fans of women’s history and Irish history. Meticulously researched and boldly-written, Never Be at Peace is a masterful story that breathes life Edwardian Ireland and illuminates the hearts and minds of these unforgettable Irish patriots.” –Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade

Sean Connolly's Death

© Drawing By Alissa Mendenhall

“Neary’s Helena Molony is a storm of a character who comes to life along with a cast of the giants of early 20th century Ireland. Helena’s story will stick with you long after you turn the last page.” –Meghan Walsh, The Recorder, The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society

And Marina’s answers to the questions about the novel’s main character.

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Helena Molony, 1884-1967. She is very much a real historical person.

When and where is the story set?
Ireland, early 20th century.  The novel spans World War I, the Easter Rising of 1916, the War of Irish Independence, the subsequent Irish Civil War, and finally, World War II.  It’s heavy on military history, light on bodice-ripping.

What should we know about him/her?
She is a spunky dreamer from a bleak Dublin suburb.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
There are several conflicts.  One is them is obvious, Anglo-Irish.  But I also wanted to focus on the conflict within the ranks of Irish revolutionaries.

What is the personal goal of the character?
Helena’s goal is to rebuild the romantic, heroic, liberated Ireland of her dreams.  The quest for independence goes horribly wrong, and the result is not quite what the heroine had envisioned. Heartbroken and disillusioned, she spirals into alcoholism and self-destruction.

What is the title of this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title is Never Be at Peace, and it’s inspired by Patrick Pearse’s graveside speech in 1915, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

When can we expect the book to be published? 
The novel was recently released through Fireship Press.

Here’s a wonderful interview with Marina about Never Be At Peace, which she did for the Historical Fiction Research Blogspot. You can find her on Facebook here.

Thank you, Marina, for participating in this blog tour.

And may I remind you:
I am offering a Giveway of my Kindle Short Stories
or an autographed copy of my novel, A House Near Luccoli.
You can read the details in my previous post of May 10th!

I’m living in hope of getting some takers! 🙂