Author: Kevin Curran • Publisher: Liberties Press
Citizens, a book set between Ireland in 1916, and Ireland during the economic crash of 2011 is a transgenerational novel by Kevin Curran, an Irish writer with an immeasurably flexible ability to transition from one time era to the other with ease. The novel’s protagonist, Neil, is a disenfranchised 20 something who’s sick of his mundane life in Ireland and longs to join his girlfriend in Canada to ‘start his life’. Corresponding with Neil’s story is the tale of his great-grand father, Harry, who played a part in the 1916 Easter Rising; a story we’re told through a series of letters discovered by Neil’s grandmother and passed onto Neil. Initially, Neil has no interest in the letters, yet his desire to see if they are of any monetary value spark off a curiosity in him, one which soon grips hold of his plans to leave Ireland behind for good.
Citizens is relatable to the 20 somethings of today living in Ireland whilst at the same time being a documentation of the transitional period Ireland is in. Curran allows the book to flow quite generously at times to a place of questioning; opening up a conversation with the reader – an inward facing critique of the desire to jump ship and leave Ireland behind. Citizens does a wonderful job of breaking down the doubts and fears, both for remaining in and leaving Ireland that have plagued its citizens for centuries. Whilst at times, the text can become laborious and slow paced, it’s an excellently observed position from Curran on concepts such as idealism, heroism, family and self-importance/belief. Citizens is as much a piece of cultural commentary as it is an engaging and historical novel.