Only with Blood by Therese Down

Caitlin Spillane is a young woman with a dream. She lives with her family in Ireland in the 1940's. Her sister, Maureen, also has a plan for her future. She wants to become a nun.  In Only with Blood by Therese Down, if a young woman dreams the right dream, things will go well for her. For Maureen who chooses to become a nun, there is joy all around in the family. Caitlin's dream is very different. She wants to go to the university, Trinity university in Dublin. She loves learning and looks forward to discovering new ideas. Her dream seems like "codology" stuff and nonsense.

The novel is very painful to read and is a reminder of a time when girl-women were treated like chattel. It helped me to remember how far women have come in the Twenty - first century. What I found as insane was the fact that Caitlin's father does not tell Caitlin his plans for her marriage. He is going to sell Caitlin, his daughter, to Jack Flynn for a measly five hundred pounds. Flynn is very happy to pay the money and gain a bride. Poor Caitlin, secret bargains for her future made behind her back. It made me sick to think about the type of man her father had chosen for her: Jack is old enough to be Caitlin's father. He's forty-three with a dreadful illness.

While all of this is happening in the Flynn and Spillane household, there is a political situation going on involving the IRA. This will involve the Kellys. While reading this part of the novel, I slowed down. Keeping names of those on the Republican side and those not on that side became a bit difficult. Most of these men fighting and plotting against a common enemy, Britain, are not men of brawn with little sense. These men are strategically thinking all the time.Civil wars or revolutions are not just about guns and explosives. These bloody times shape the way a man thinks and  can change him in a big way.

There are a few twists and turns throughout Only with Blood involving romance, civil war and family. For this novel, it pays to remember the beginning. You could very well read a hook up at the end of the story. I could go on sharing about what I liked in the novel. There are so many interesting facts about Irish farming during that period and the health of farmers. Father Kennally does visit and gives last rites to Jack Flynn. I always like to read about Catholic priests visiting families and having mass and other rituals. There is an  underpinning of the Irish Catholic faith throughout the novel.

I did want to read more about Maureen, Caitlin's sister. I wondered what happened to her at the convent. Did the nuns become involved in the IRA movement? For what was written about her, I felt Maureen and the other two sisters could have been left out of the novel. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.


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