Strumpet City is the great social novel of Dublin Plunkett does for Dublin what writers like Dickens did for London He expertly encapsulates the social strata of early 20th century Dublin with all it s hardship and poverty but also the loving comradery of the people which helps them survive the hardship Plunketts descriptions of the city are masterful He lets us hear, smell and feel the clamour of the city A city which remained largely unchanged until the 1960s when the tenements were cleared once and for all While I would levy some criticism at Plunkett for his character development, he does give us Rashers Tierney I cannot think of Rashers match anywhere in literature and he must surely be one if the most beloved characters in Irish literature I would encourage all to read this book And for those interested there is an interesting podcast by History Ireland discussing the book and the period.
Strumpet City is an Irish social novel published in 1969, that is good 50 years too late When everyone was waist deep in post modernist adventures, this novel tries to warm the hearts for a battle and does it in an earnest and unpretentious way Like with any other social novel, whether it s Steinbeck or Hugo, we know where the author s sympathies lie No secret is ever made of it And frankly I do have a soft spot for a good social novel with the pureness of its heart, its childlike stubbornness, its teenage idealism, its insistence on broadcasting all the wrongs and standing up for the little guy It s hard not to love Strumpet City , admire Fitz, pity Rashers, feel contempt for the Bradshaws, and despise Father O Connor oh, how wonderfully despicable he was This is all precisely what Plunkett wanted us to feel while we re being educated on the Dublin Lockout of 1913 It s a shame this novel somewhat missed its time and you won t see it in elegant Penguin Classics covers.
In addition to being my May Book Club read, Strumpet City is the chosen book for Dublin, One City, One Book, an initiative of Dublin City Council Further information on this initiative can be found at many others, I watched Hugh Leonard s adaptation of James Plunkett s Strumpet City on RTE television in 1980, we all sat glued to the television screen each week, eagerly awaiting each episode as it unfolded So I was delighted this was chosen in our Book Club as the read for May as I finally got a chance to read it and also revisit the television series hired on DVD whilst reading the book.
Set in Dublin at the beginning of the 20th Century and focusing on the 1913 lock out, Strumpet City is considered a much loved Irish classic and rightly so James Plunkett did a superb job of capturing the social, political and economic aspects of this era These were indeed difficult times for workers and their families who lived in the tenements in Dublin City While most experienced extreme poverty, yet even at such a difficult time, they found new hope in Jim Larkin and the Trade Union movement There was a wonderful array of characters in the book representing all social classes, the upper class Bradshaws, the poverty stricken inhabitants of the tenements, the workers, trade union leaders and the clergy Some of my favourite characters were Father Gifley, Mr Yearling and of course aul Rashers Tierney himself As this year is the one hundred anniversary of the 1913 lock out, it s ironic that this year in Ireland so much controversy is evident over the past number of months between the public sector unions, government and employers The unions appear to have lost the respect and support of their grass roots over the last number of years and perhaps it would be no harm if their leaders sat down and read this book, just to remind them of their origins, their purpose, commitments and priorities But that s another day s discussion I think this book TV series should be compulsory reading watching in all secondary schools in Ireland as it captures a most historic and important time in Ireland s history, one which may not be familiar to a whole generation of Irish.
A good book of historical fiction set in Dublin and focusing on the Lockout of 1913 There are characters from all walks of life and the story relayed is realistic The plight of the poor can not possibly leave the reader unmoved In the foreground you have a set of fictional characters, in the background the well known Jim Larkin My complaint is that you can easily sort the characters into two groups the villains and the heroes.
The bottom line I felt I ought to be engaged than I was.
A very moving and personalised telling of the affects of the 1913 Dublin Lock outNo harsh reality around the poverty of the time is held back, a book that is as graphic as it is explicit.
A profoundly moving story of the events leading up to and the devastating affects of not just the lock out but the poverty tens of thousands of families were forced to endureThe complete graphic descriptive passages of the abject poverty of the Dublin working classes is unsettling as it is uncomfortable all of which is made even painful and palpable when compared to the comforts and respectability of the middle classes.
Plunkett gives us great portraits of people such as Rashers Tierney and Father O Connor all from different backgrounds but sharing a the same but different city.
This book was written from the heart I first read this sometime in the early 80s, after having seen the RT television programme on PBS It s in the sprawling epic category, although it doesn t stray much further north than Drumcondra nor south of D n Laoghaire the Phoenix Park marks its western extremity and Dublin Bay is the east Oh, there are mentions of Connemara and Cork, Liverpool and London, but those are place people will come from or go to The real action takes place either in Kingstown as D n Laoghaire was then known or within a few blocks of the Liffey inside a circle which could be drawn with Liberty Hall at the centre and Parnell Square on the radius A tight little world indeed for an epic.
The cast of characters is expansive enough, however mostly families There are the wealthy Bradshaws husband and wife occupying a handsome home in Kingstown with their two servants, the elderly Miss Gilchrist and young Mary there is the de facto family group in the rectory of St Brigid s the alcoholic Fr Giffley, the sincere but dull Fr O Sullivan, and the priggish youthful Fr O Connor, transferred from Kingstown and a continuing link between the inner city and leafy suburb then there is the extended clan at Number 3 Chandler s Court, a rundown tenement within St Brigid s parish Robert and Mary Fitzpatrick she formerly in service to the Bradshaws , the Mulhalls across the hall, the Henneseys layabout husband, shrewish wife and multitudinous children and finally if you will, the beggar Rashers Tierney and his dog Rusty, also occupants of No 3, if only the basement We might also consider a larger family, even by Irish Catholic standards the brotherhood of Big Jim Larkin s Irish Transport and General Workers Union, of whom many of the above are members There are, as might be expected in an epic, many walk ons, including King Edward VII, Jim Larkin and James Connelly, a cheery handful of rozzers and rogues, the occasional hooer with the requisite heart of gold , and on and on, with cameos by all the leading lights of the Celtic revival and beyond.
No epic is worth the handle without an epic struggle, and this is the centre of the novel The 1913 Dublin Lockout, when Labour and Management effectively closed down the entire city, throwing thousands of the poorest out of work, ruining innumerable businesses and setting the next stage in Ireland s long struggle for independence The novel begins in 1907, introducing the characters on the occasion of a rare royal visit, which gives plenty of opportunity for Plunkett to establish the political stance of each.
Plunkett s writing style is workmanlike, straightforward without being too flowery In spite of the huge cast, the novel moves along at a brisk clip, driven as it is by historical events I make no claim to verify the veracity of the history the general outlines conform The real story is how huge events affect little people in this, James Plunkett s Strumpet City is successful.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book I first read it in the 1970s and at that time I was young and idealistic I believed that all the problems covered in the book, the extreme poverty and injustice at the beginning of the twentieth century were things of the past and that workers were not treated in that way any The story covers the period prior to the beginning of the troubles in Ireland and focuses upon the treatment of the men on strike for fair pay who were facing Lock out from their jobs We are introduced to Fr O Connor who has just arrived at St Brigid s Church as he asked to be transferred to a parish where he could work with the poor The trouble with Fr O Connor is that he does not like poor people, they are dirty, they smell, they beg and he considers them to have brought a lot of their troubles upon themselves with their own feckless behaviour The Parish Priest in charge of St Brigid s is Fr Giffley, at heart a good and caring man who has spent his life in the parish and has been worn down trying to help the poor He has a severe drink problem and is also walking a fine line between sanity and madness.
The story revolves around men like Fitz and his wife Mary and the Mulhall family Mr Mulhall is heavily involved in the strike whilst James Larkin, who actually was the union organizer who sparked the events leading up to the Lock out, raised money in other countries to help support the strikers in Ireland but this was far too little and people were facing near starvation.
I think the character that will stay in my memory and heart for the longest is Rashers Tierney and his little dog Rusty, the only creature to show Rashers any love Poor Rashers did not even know what his real name was He lived in a filthy and dank cellar, sleeping on a few dirty sacks on the floor Some days he found food in the bins of the rich people, often he and Rusty went without Fr O Connor had no pity for the likes of Rashers and dismissed him from his winter job of keeping the church boiler fuelled I found his story heartbreaking.
The writing in this book is poetic and eloquent and gives a real insight into that part of history just before the world would be plunged into the dreadful darkness of the first World War.
I am wise enough to know now that these things were not of the past they are just as relevant today and if you look around you will find a Rashers Tierney existing not so far from where you live.
A wonderful piece of writing.
Set In Dublin During The Lockout Of , Strumpet City Is A Panoramic Novel Of City Life It Embraces A Wide Range Of Social Milieux, From The Miseries Of The Tenements To The Cultivated, Bourgeois Bradshaws It Introduces A Memorable Cast Of Characters The Main Protagonist, Fitz, A Model Of The Hard Working, Loyal And Abused Trade Unionist The Isolated, Well Meaning And Ineffectual Fr O Connor The Wretched And Destitute Rashers Tierney In The Background Hovers The Enormous Shadow Of Jim Larkin, Plunkett S Real Life HeroStrumpet City S Popularity Derives From Its Realism And Its Naturalistic Presentation Of Traumatic Historical Events There Are Clear Heroes And Villians The Book Is Informed By A Sense Of Moral Outrage At The Treatment Of The Locked Out Trade Unionists, The Indifference And Evasion Of The City S Clergy And Middle Class And The Squalor And Degradation Of The Tenement Slums