At the heart of the rebellion against Britain in Ireland, lies the tragic and compelling story of three sisters. The Gifford sisters were beautiful sisters born into privilege and educated beyond what many women could expect in the early twentieth century. They also rebelled against their Protestant pro-England background to become important contributors in the Irish fight for freedom much to their family’s dismay.
Muriel trains to become a nurse, and meets the romantic teacher and writer, Thomas MacDonagh. As a Catholic and poor teacher, he at first doesn’t meet her parents approval, but he soon works his way into the family’s heart. Grace is a trained artist and a master cartoonist that struggles to find a place for her work. When she meets MacDonagh’s friend Joe Plunkett, she meets someone that shares her deepest thoughts and also encourages a religious side of her that explores the Catholic faith. Nellie trains as a cook and teaches new cooking methods to women across the country. When Countess Markievicz inspires her on the rights of the Irish people, Nellie joins the Citizen Army. Isabelle is a mother who wants her children to love God in the Protestant Church and the English rulers, but although her six sons follow the family line, her six daughters all are inspired to help the cause of Irish freedom. As events lead to the Easter Monday Rising of 1916, tragedy looms near for the entire family.
I found this entire book to be intriguing and I learned a lot a about Irish history. I’ll admit that as I read it, I thought that the sisters were fiction characters existing in a historical setting. I discovered in the afterward that they were all real historical figures and I was amazed. I then spent a lot of time online trying to learn all I could about their later lives (the author does give a brief synopsis of each in the afterward as well) and the Rising in general and I was fascinated. It is an amazing part of history and they were amazing women in their own right.
I loved this quote in the novel as it illustrated the sad fact that Irish children were raised to not learn anything of their own heritage. I equate this to what was done in the United States to Native American children.
“There was a large map of Ireland and its counties, showing its rivers, mountains, and roads. As they had had only a map of Britain in her school, Muriel knew its rivers, counties, and countryside far better than those of her own country, she was ashamed to say.”
A large part of the novel was actually about labor strikes that were going on in the 1912 and 1913 time period. I found these very interesting as there were also labor strikes going on at the same time in the United States in the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and in the coal mines of Appalachia. I didn’t realize that the labor unrest was worldwide with the working class wanting to have more of their fair share when at that time the rich were living at such a high level as compared to the common working person. I thought this quote illustrated that:
“A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work is all the workers want,” Connolly complained angrily.
I also found it interesting that the Irish Rebellion started during WWI, which was also when the communist revolution was happening in Russia. This time period was a powder keg for world change. From a strategic point of view, this was also a good time for a rebellion with the British deeply invested in the war on the Continent.
Overall, Rebel Sisters is a great historical fiction story with wonderful real life characters that are finally getting their story told. The setting of turn of the century Dublin was fascinating as was the revolution as it unfolded. I loved the characters stories, their coming into their own as well as their romances. I highly recommend this novel.
Book Source: I received a copy of Rebel Sisters for Review as a part of the TLC Book Tours. Thank-you! For more great reviews of this novel, check out the full list of tour participants at:
More great links about this book:
Author's website: https://maritaconlonmckenna.com/womens-fiction/rebel-sisters/
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