During the period covered in Llywelyn's third magisterial novel (after 1916 and 1921) in her Irish Century series, from the island's division into the primarily Catholic Free State and the mostly Protestant Northern Ireland in the early 1920s to the creation of the Irish Republic in 1949, the outside world changes much while Ireland changes painfully little.
Avoiding such stock Irish themes as the "curse" of drink and emigration to foreign and unwelcoming shores, the story focuses on the indomitable Ursula Halloran (adopted daughter of rebel Ned Halloran, introduced in 1916), a young woman who first works for the Irish radio service and later the League of Nations. The unwed Ursula discovers how oppressive the new Catholic state can be when she becomes pregnant and must flee the country.
Eventually, Ursula must choose between the two men in her life, one an Irish civil servant, the other an English pilot. The melodrama is mitigated by the poignancy of her forever losing the man she truly loves. Moving as well is Ursula's aiding a Jewish man who brought his children to Britain for safety on the eve of WWII and is returning to Nazi Germany, where his wife still resides.
Well-realized characters and a vivid history make for richly gratifying reading.
New York-born author Morgan Llywelyn is one of the world's leading popular chroniclers of Celtic culture and history. A prolific storyteller, she has written more than twenty books over the past two decades. Her fiction has received several awards and has sold more than 40 million copies, and she herself is recipient of the 1999.Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year Award from Celtic Women International.
In the words of Judith A. Gifford of the reference publication Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, "Drawing on the history and lore that are part of her own heritage, the works of Morgan Llywelyn concern themselves with Celtic heroes and heroines, both real and mythical, bringing them and the times they inhabited to life with stunning clarity." Pauline Morgan, writing in the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, has explained, "[t]he majority of Morgan Llywelyn's books may be regarded as fictional biographies. Each book takes a person, often historical or legendary, and relates the story of their life. Most of the novels with a fantasy connection rely heavily on Celtic mythology, particularly that of the Irish.
Morgan Llywelyn now lives outside of Dublin, Ireland, and has become an Irish citizen.