Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 290
This novel set in Northern Ireland effectively blends contemporary political issues with a personal love story. Themes of loyalty and betrayal, both to one’s family and one’s country, are considered from several angles. The ethical choices that one individual makes as weighed against the greater good is a theme that emerges at various points, with different perspectives offered by the various characters and their actions.
The main protagonists, Michael Dillon and his wife Moira, begin as innocent victims in an assassination plot. The author seems to place blame squarely on the Irish Republic Army members who kidnap the couple as a step toward carrying out their nefarious plan. Things quickly take a different turn as Michael decides to risk his wife’s life in an effort to save the lives of people at the hotel where he is a manager and the preacher who is the actual target lives. While this ethical quandary affects both husband and wife, she feels doubly betrayed when she learns that he has a lover and plans to leave her and move away.
Although the personal dimensions of the love story are in some ways a central concern, the larger issues of culpability in a volatile political situation also permeate the novel. Dillon’s decisions are presented less as stemming from his moral certitude than as being after-effects of what strongly resembles a mid-life crisis. Although the author stops far short of justifying the radical violence, even as Dillon condemns hypocrisy, his behavior seems consistent with it and the social norms that contribute to the popular political apathy that the revolutionaries censure. Moira’s bold decision to speak out against the IRA, in contrast, shows a progression from sideline observer to involved activist.
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