The Abstainer by Ian McGuire - review by Ethan Croft

Ethan Croft

Doyle’s War

The Abstainer


Scribner 368pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Ian McGuire’s third novel, The Abstainer, begins in late 1867, the high point of ‘Fenian fever’, when an abortive Irish rebellion and two subsequent prison breaks in Manchester and London forced Britain to pay the Irish republican cause some attention. In the aftermath of the Manchester plot – in which three Fenians killed a police officer, for which they were executed – James O’Connor, a detective and sometime alcoholic on secondment from Dublin, is tasked with snuffing out any more of the Fenian conspiracies intended to liberate Ireland from British control.

O’Connor’s foil, Stephen Doyle, is one of the Irish-American Civil War veterans who holds his oaths to the American union and to an Irish republic in equal esteem. Many of these emigrants fled Ireland as boys during the famine, a humanitarian disaster largely blamed on the negligence of the British

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