THE PASSIONS OF PATRIOTS
On the eve of making her First Communion, a little girl narrowly escapes being trampled by a herd of cattle that were stampeded by a disaffected farm labourer, during the Irish Ranch War of 1906-1910 – but the package containing her new white Communion dress has been trodden into the mud, the way her childhood and young womanhood are soon to be marred by the hidden horror of violence against children and women. She survives the destruction of her innocence only to face the annihilation of her ambitions when she is forced to marry a man who is under the thumb of the criminal who wronged her as a child, and who continues to victimize her while he colludes with radical republicans to instigate the Easter Rising of 1916 against the British Empire. With the contagion of conflict sweeping through Ireland, in armed rebellion and then in civil war, how can she escape her ravaged past, recover her damaged dreams and resolve the confusion of loving two men?
A young Irishman risks his life to save a child from certain death under the hooves of wild cattle – becoming the village hero and winning the heart of a young woman for whose favours he and a landless farm labourer have competed. She pledges to return to the faith of her forefathers so she can be the hero’s bride, but he hesitates to ask her to abandon the comforts of her family’s Ascendancy mansion for the hardships of the homestead his ancestors hewed from the rocks in the west of Ireland, when they were expelled by Cromwell from the eastern inheritance they had held for more than a millennium, as descendants of a High King of Tara. He leaves his farm in Connemara and goes to Dublin, hoping to earn enough to feather his modest nest – only to become enmeshed in the violence of the labor Lock-Out of 1913. When war comes to the world in 1914, he casts his lot with 200,000 other Irishmen who join the British Army in the hope that the promise of Home Rule after the war’s end will enable them to build better lives for those they love, as Ireland peacefully progresses towards freedom. But how can the Irish patriot cope with the Great War’s unforeseen trauma to his mind and spirit, when he attempts to find life and love in a homeland that is devastated by influenza, wrecked by armed rebellion and then wracked by civil war, and that now distrusts him because of his wartime service to the King?
A young German nobleman leaves his beloved home in Bavaria, to fight for what he has been told is the defense of his country. But after an unofficial Christmas Truce in the trenches, he begins to see a different side to the war – as well as to perceive troubling premonitions of the future from the rants of a strange Austrian artist-soldier in his regiment. The fortunes of war throw him into contact with an Irishman whose life he saves at the cost of losing his own facial identity to a hail of machine gun fire. The Irishman in turn preserves the Bavarian’s life through his skill in herbal lore. But when the German is unwilling to be repatriated in his mutilated condition, the Irishman helps him escape to London, where he obtains treatment under the scalpel of a surgeon who is pioneering reconstructive plastic surgery, and avails of the talents of a sculptor specializing in prosthetic masks. But after the bandages come off and the mask goes on, the Bavarian fails to find the welcome he hoped for in his native land, which like himself has changed beyond recognition. The outcast’s wanderings take him to Ireland, where he rescues a young mother who was unwillingly trafficked into prostitution, but in liberating her, he loses her. He tramps back and forth across Ireland searching for his new love and his old friend, and during his travels he finds compassion in a colony of German expatriates who have embraced a strange new religion from America. When at last he finds his Irish friend, now married and with a family, how can the Bavarian help them in their struggles to rebuild their shattered souls amongst a people who are still at war with themselves, when to do so will put at risk his friendship, his love and even his life?
©2012, 2013 Christine Plouvier