Mary Kenny

Rising Stars

Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland 1890–1923

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 463pp £20 order from our bookshop

My mother was born in 1900 in a small town in County Galway, far from the voguish vegetarian restaurants and feminist covens of the Dublin intelligentsia. Yet she caught the whiff of the zeitgeist, recalling those early years of the 20th century in Ireland as the most exciting, sizzling, expectant and exhilarating period there could ever have been.

I thought, when she spoke about that golden age, that she might have been infusing it with nostalgia. But, as Roy Foster’s magnificent and magisterial chronicle demonstrates, it was altogether so. Ireland really was throbbing with budding writers, artists, poets, playwrights and revolutionaries, all swimming in this melee of high talk, fiery ambitions and passionate persuasions. As it happens, the economy was also improving – there was a mini Celtic Tiger boom – and that must have lifted expectations too. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,