A few years back, Irish novelist Joseph O'Connor wrote "Star of the Sea," an ambitious, multi-layered novel set mainly during the voyage of an Irish famine coffin ship. The book was a best-seller, despite the fact that it was a demanding read. Using flashbacks, jumbled chronology and other trickery, O'Connor took readers all over the British Isles, and his narrative spanned the better part of the 19th century. So we should not be surprised by O'Connor's latest effort, the equally challenging "Redemption Falls." On the surface, "Redemption Falls" explores the lives of numerous Irish characters trying to make new lives during the American Civil War. There's Eliza Duane Mooney, walking across the country on an epic search, and James Con O'Keeffe, Acting Governor of the frontier territory, which gives O'Connor his title. O'Keeffe's past in Ireland is a troubled one, and his present in the U.S. is not much better. A Spanish poet, a former African-American slave and a war-hardened Irish drummer boy also figure in O'Connor's long list of characters. But it is the form of this book that makes it so rewarding. Each character speaks in his own native dialect, while O'Connor employs news reports, posters, songs and more to move his story along. "Redemption Falls" is not for those interested in a ripping yarn. But there are strong hints of Faulkner in this epic, which adds a new layer of complexity to our grasp of the links between Ireland and America. ($25 / 464 Pages / Free Press) Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk
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