By Angela Koenig, $13 (e-book, $11); Blue Feather Books; 152 pages
Chicago writer Angela Koenig's debut novel is a wonderful work of historical fiction, centered on a Boston lesbian who gets caught up in the IRA (Irish Republican Army) of the 1980s.
There's plenty of passion and politics in this thriller, giving you an insider's view of the Irish-English debate that claimed thousands of lives over hundreds of years. While there is relative calm in Britain today, this book does a terrific job of bringing you right back to the anger and chaos of those frightful days of rage, where guns and bombs killed innocent civilians and military soldiers alike.
Ulster is in northern Island, a province with great historical significance. The book focuses on the life of Rhodes scholar Jeri O'Donnell, who makes the trip to England after a mostly isolated life in South Boston's Irish enclave.
Jeri has been writing her cousins in Ireland for many years, and her first chance to meet in person comes with a priceher cousin Fiona dies and Jeri spends several years in the Armagh Women's Prison as a result of the incident. While in prison, Jeri is recruited for the IRA, and another prisoner, Arkadia O'Malley, tries to educate Jeri about the outside world (and her inner world) through the books in the prison's library. Especially interesting are the many literary referencesKoenig does a nice job integrating these into her story.
Jeri does join the Provisional IRA, and she is trained both inside and outside of Ireland. But don't worrybetween the training she has time for a few romantic entanglements. The question is whether she is really ready for love.
This is a highly recommended first novel from a Chicago talentand an added bonus at the end is a short excerpt from her next novel, a sequel entitled Rendezvous in the Himalayas.
Koenig will read from and sign copies of her book at Women & Children First Bookstore, Wed., Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at 5233 N. Clark St.