Big Hero of a Small Country
By M. J. Neary
Irish Free State, 1931. An ambitious journalism student from University College Dublin travels to Roscommon to investigate the life of his paternal grandfather, a deceased Fenian leader nicknamed “Colonel”, in hopes of writing a stellar article that will earn him notoriety. Upon arrival he discovers that the locals who remember the “Colonel” from twenty-some years ago are not too keen on talking. They avert their eyes and mumble about the land being cursed.
As the young man digs deeper, he discovers the history of this seemingly exemplary Irish family is laced with secrets and violence. A staunch nationalist father, who fantasizes about staging another rebellion, and a blatantly unionist mother, who idolizes all things English, compete for the loyalty of their two sons. Caught in their parents’ political conflict, the boys suffer–body and soul–seeking refuge in dark and perilous places. The summer of 1910 seals their fate, when the “Colonel” takes them to a secret training camp on the banks of the Shannon and pressures them to join the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Will both sons comply with their father’s demand, or will they end up on opposite sides of the barricade? The oldest, a naïve Celtic titan, seems eager to follow the Fenian path, but the youngest, a sickly, secretive bookworm, may have already found his happiness in the enemy camp. What is the price for disobeying Daddy?
Set in the decade leading up to the Easter Rising, Big Hero of a Small Country is a grim and candid exploration of fanaticism.