New novel based on the life of Michael Dwyer.
McCarthy’s writing skills do not stop there however, as he has successfully endowed his characters with credible traits and motives for their actions – in short, he has breathed life into characters who lived two centuries ago. The story of Michael Dwyer is gradually revealed, starting in Wicklow and taking the reader through the turbulent years of the 1798 rebellion and its aftermath, when Dwyer and his band of rebels successfully resisted Crown forces in the Wicklow Mountains for over five years. The dialogue between the principal characters, such as Dwyer and Hugh Vesty Byrne, is pithy, earthy and plausible, adding tremendously to the pleasure of reading a good story well told.
The storyline moves on and the action switches to Australia, a raw and vibrant penal colony, following Dwyer’s cessation of military operations and his transportation to the new land. This part of the novel follows Dwyer’s many Australian adventures, and his battle with his increasing reliance on alcohol. Dwyer’s inner demons are laid bare as the plot unfolds, and perhaps McCarthy’s greatest triumph is his depiction of Dwyer as a man at war with himself; a man who has sought and eventually gained freedom – from everybody but himself. There is no doubt that this novel works very well at the human as well as the historical level. Dwyer’s story becomes part of a greater literary mechanism – the struggle of man against his own weakness and his inability to escape from himself – and Citizen Dwyer portrays this aspect of the human condition every bit as skilfully as it places Michael Dwyer in the context of the historical backdrop of his times.
The book is published in Dublin by New Island books, with support from the Arts Council. It is an attractive paperback of 354 pages, which captures the imagination of the reader, and should be under the Christmas tree of anyone with an interest in the period, in Irish history generally, in County Wicklow – or just with an interest in the pleasure of reading a good book with a fine storyline and a depth of insight into the human condition. I heartily recommend it to everyone, and wish it every success.