Audiobook review: For The Love of Ireland by Judy Leslie with interview

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Title: For the Love of Ireland
Author:  Judy Leslie
Narrator: Susanna Burney
Format:  Paperback, eBook and AudioBook
Publisher:  Self-Published
Audio Producer:  Self
Pages:  314
Length:  9 Hours and 20 minutes
ISBN:  978-1481258678
Source: Author via AudioBook Jukebox
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Stars: Overall: 4  Narration: 5   Story: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon §  Audible

About the Book:

Margaret Sullivan dines with politicians, rebels, and spies. She is an admired journalist with the Chicago Tribune publishing under a male nom de plume. Her unscrupulous husband is a prominent attorney and power broker with aspirations of his own. They are well-connected members of Chicago’s 1880s Irish elite.

On her trip to Ireland to do research for a book she is writing, Margaret meets a charming one-armed Irish rebel named Michael and finds herself attracted to him and his ideas for liberating Ireland. While traveling through the stone-walled back roads of the island, Margaret sees for herself how the poor are treated. She breaks her vow never to get involved, and soon questions if she can ever go back to her old superficial life in Chicago again. Overcome with her new found emotions and strong desire to help the poor Irish tenants, Margaret finds herself easily convinced by Mrs. Delia Parnell that women can be just as crucial in the fight for Ireland’s independence as men.

Back home in Chicago Margaret publishes articles hoping to gain support for Michael’s cause. That is until he is arrested. Desperate, she turns to her jealous, devious husband for help…but he has a hidden agenda of his own.
Torn between her career as a journalist and compassion for those overseas, she finds herself trapped by her own aspirations. Soon things spin out of control both at home and abroad, and Margaret has to decide how much she is willing sacrifice for Michael and her love of Ireland.

For The Love of Ireland is a historical novel of love and loyalty, deception and honesty. It is about women fighting against traditional roles and gender prejudice, while trying to carry out humanitarian efforts in Ireland. For The Love of Ireland is a work of fiction woven around actual events of the Irish Land League, a Chicago couple and the covert activities of the Clan na Gael.

Some Questions about the book and its creation: 

This book is rich with history and elements that required plotting and planning. What sort of time did it take to go from idea to book ?
I spent about four months gathering information. I read many books while researching the different characters and evens in my novel.  I found it necessary to create a timeline to keep everything within the proper time frame.  The actual writing can’t be counted by days or months but in hours.  I wrote between 8 and 11 hours a day for about 6 months.  

People  are familiar with the IRA and Fenn Sein, but few have heard of Clan na Gael – why choose a more obscure republican faction?
I wrote this story because people aren’t familiar with what the Irish in American did to help the Land League and Ireland during the 1880s. My story is based on the real lives of Margaret Sullivan, a Chicago Irish-American journalist and her husband Alexander Sullivan.  Alexander was the president of the Irish-American Clan na Gael and they were quite active during the 1880s in America. 

What sort of research into the historical did you need to do to inform the story will lesser known details of the time?  Were their particular books or sources that were more informative?
I have read over 25 books either written by the various characters themselves or about them.  I have also researched and read many out of print articles about the various events.  I even downloaded the transcripts of the Parnell trial.  Talk about information over load.  I think the hardest part was staying focused on the protagonist and using all the historical information as backdrop. 
My goal was to create a story that entertained the reader while educating them at the same time.  I wanted the reader to feel empathy for the predicament my protagonist was in.  I think many people take for granted the freedoms we have today and I wanted to transport them to a time when women didn’t have rights and show the frustration they must have felt being at the mercy of men. In the story For the Love of Ireland, Margaret’s obsession with helping Ireland becomes a metaphor for her journey in learning to help herself.

AudioBook Review:

“To some, Ireland is no more than an island of rock and dirt shaped by the hand of God.
To the Irish, it is a poem, a myth, a clan, a country.

To the British, Ireland is a possession they don’t want to release.

She is a place of happiness and love, also sadness and sorrow.

Ireland is like Venus to many men, turning their hearts and creating warriors out of peasants.
She is an idea many would lay down their life for. “

This is the prologue quote that is in both the book and the audiobook: an attempt to prepare the reader for the events to come in this story.  Closely directed by the thoughts and travels of Margaret Sullivan, the story mixes fiction, history, romance and a sense of the republicanism that is evident in Ireland to this day.

Margaret is an interesting, if not wholly impressive to me, character. I can admit to a real prejudice against women who maintain their independent view and approach when they act in a completely contrary manner.  Margaret is, for her time, an unusual woman: a journalist, traveling for 2 months without her husband to rediscover the land of her birth and write a story.  While that alone is worth recognition since women of the late 1800’s were rarely in the workforce, her submission to her husband, and refusal to make a clear break from her marriage all felt as if she was insecure in her own convictions and made her less than admirable.  What Judy Leslie did manage to do with Margaret however, was to create a situation in which her choices would become the center of a climax point, and making her character work for that point.

The integration of historical events and carefully describing and detailing the places, as well as providing a clear set of explanations to the republican feelings of the Irish she encounters, including the radical solutions and options proposed by Michael are very ‘of the moment’ and help to elucidate the emotion behind the struggle for home rule.  Adding in the fraternal organization of Clan na Gael and the emotions that are stirred in Irish living abroad for their homeland are all presented with an eye to the prolific and often polemic propaganda and rallying cries of the organizations.

Narration is provided by Susanna Burney who manages to deliver the story without over reliance on vocal manipulation to illustrate the different characters.  Her accents are softly delivered and tone is well-modulated, providing a story that is easy to listen to at any pace.  There are traces of regional accents and inflections that fit well with the characters, and the emotion behind the words that is written into the story provides a subtle reinforcement of the words being spoken.

This was a story that had moments of brilliance, and is written much like a love story to the many who struggled for home rule, while providing a lead character that will not always engender sympathy, but completely fits the story as it is told, and her motivations and history are exposed.  Not a quick read, this is one to savor and enjoy, stirring the travel bug in those who have never seen the “Emerald Isle” for themselves, no matter their genealogy.

I received an AudioBook copy of the book from the author for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

About the Author:

Judy Leslie has studied both literary and popular fiction at the University of Washington. For The Love of Ireland is her debut novel. Inspired by her days as owner of an antique shop in the historical town of Bellingham, Washington, she decided to focus her writing on historical fiction.She discovered that throughout history people held onto a variety items just for sentimental reasons: a lock of hair or a ribbon from a loved one, even old lace and hat pins. That’s how she came up with the idea of having Margaret collect buttons in her novel For the Love of Ireland.

Surrounding herself with antiques also moved her to think about women and how far they had come, as well as all the unsung female heroes who had risked their lives, so she could enjoy the freedoms that she does now. She wrote For the Love of Ireland about the life of one these women, Margaret Sullivan the unknown woman journalist behind many popular articles in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune during the 1880s.Judy believes that today women are still wrestling with the same issues of finding love, happiness and meaning in the world, just as their great-grandmothers did over a hundred years ago.

Website § Blog  § @JudyLeslie4 

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2 thoughts on “Audiobook review: For The Love of Ireland by Judy Leslie with interview

  1. I just downloaded this book to my kindle. Thank you for reviewing this type of selection. I’m Irish and love historical fiction.

    • I hope you enjoy – it was interesting to me – I’m not Irish – but the pull of republicanism is deeply ingrained from my Scots side

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