Friend or Foe and One Good Turn by Brian Gallagher

May 13, 2016 Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Friend or Foe and One Good Turn by Brian GallagherFriend or Foe by Brian Gallagher
Published by O'Brien Press on February 2nd 2015
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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It’s time to choose: friendship, family or loyalty to the cause. When Emer Davey saves her neighbour Jack Madigan from drowning, it seems that they will be friends forever. But eight months later, they find themselves on opposite sides in a life-or-death struggle, as Dublin is torn apart by the Easter Rising. Emer’s father is an officer in the Irish Volunteers who believes that armed rebellion is the only way to gain independence from Britain. His daughter has inherited his passion and is determined to help the rebels in any way she can. Jack’s dad is a sergeant in the Dublin Metropolitan Police. They share a deep respect for the law and are sure that Home Rule can be achieved through peaceful politics and helping with the war effort. These two young friends find their loyalties challenged as the terrifying reality of war sets in – and the Rising hits closer to home than either could have imagined.

As Ireland remembers the 1916 Rising one century on, there are countless ceremonies, concerts, exhibitions and launches of every kind for people to enjoy. The Rising has happily also enjoyed a revival through the medium of fiction with authors recounting what it must have been like for the “ordinary” person on the streets of Dublin that fateful week, rather than concentrate on the Seven Signatories and the leaders. Brian Gallagher lends us the perspective of children with his books FRIEND OR FOE and ONE GOOD TURN, creating an enjoyable and memorable tale for children and adults alike.

FRIEND OR FOE is told from the perspective of Emer and Jack. Emer has been raised in a household, very much in support of Independence for Ireland. Her father is a member of the Irish Volunteers and the family is very passionate in their support for a free Ireland. 

Emer’s school-friend Jack has a different perspective on the political state of the country. His father is a member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and is in favour of keeping ties with the British and a “Home Rule” Parliament. His family also have many members fighting in WW1 on the side of the British so any attempts to seize an opportunity by the Irish for independence is looked upon with ill-favour. 

Despite a difference in ideologies, Emer and Jack become friends after a near-accident and through conversations in the months leading to Easter; they understand each other’s perspectives despite not always agreeing. 

As Easter Monday dawns, heavy decisions are placed upon the shoulders of these two young Irish children. Loyalties are challenged and friendships tested. Will they be friends or foes?

FRIEND OR FOE is a great book for children looking to learn about the Easter Rising through fiction. Gallagher has created a thought provoking and informative read, with just enough historical facts without letting the storyline buckle under the weight of heavy subject matter. I liked how we showed the different perspectives and upbringing that Emer and Jack had but how at the very core of it all, we’re all the same and friendship, love and loyalty are the most important things in life. 

He captures the excitement and fervour of war-torn Dublin perfectly, and the pace of the story flows nicely, depicting the months leading up to the rebellion and the Rising itself. A great book for both the school-room and for people with an interest in the time period themselves, FRIEND OR FOE is a balanced, refreshing and entertaining book that stands out amongst so many others. Highly recommend. 

Friend or Foe and One Good Turn by Brian GallagherOne Good Turn by Brian Gallagher
Published by O'Brien Press on Feb 15th 2016
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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Gerry Quinn knows what it’s like to be hungry and poor. So when looting breaks out during the 1916 Rising, he doesn’t hesitate to join in.
Months later Gerry and his friends Emer and Jack piece together their lives in the aftermath of the Easter Rebellion. But just when Gerry’s luck appears to be picking up, disaster strikes: his crime is about to be revealed.
Desperate to avoid being sent to a brutal reformatory school, Gerry turns to Emer and Jack for help. But his friends have their own secret to keep from the Rising, and helping Gerry is fraught with danger.
Does one good turn always deserve another? And if it does, how much must a friend risk to pay back a debt?

ONE GOOD TURN was O’Brien Press’ release for World Book Day and we revisit Emer and Jack’s Dublin post-Rising with a very different perspective by one of the side characters in FRIEND OR FOE, Gerry Quinn.

Child poverty and slums were a huge problem in Dublin in the early 20th century, despite its position as the second city in the British Empire. Gerry’s story highlights the pain and suffering of the children of the time as the orphan struggles to find a balance between school and work at such a young age. It also highlights how in times of strife, opportunistic people prey on the weak and the importance of showing kindness to those less fortunate.

It was nice to see characters from FRIEND OR FOE make an appearance and it was definitely emotionally stirring despite its short length to get an insight into the life of Gerry especially looking back 100 years on and realising that while we concentrate on the adult players in the Rising, it’s important to remember the children who were denied the voice and safe childhood that the Leaders when writing their proclamation hoped would be a reality.

Short and sweet but altogether a thoughtful and important read. 

Over to you!
Have you read any other 1916 based fiction this year? Do you like historical fiction? What are your faves?


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