‘He had never wanted to come here… He only ever wanted to be the boy who enjoyed football and television and computer games… Until he came to Dublin that was who he was… now he was someone else. He was Irish … he had a history that was full of sadness. He shouted with all his might “I’m English for God’s sake”’. This powerfully expressed crisis of identity comes late in the story of Jack O’Connor. Because of his mother’s illness and her breakup with his stepfather, twelve-year-old Jack is sent to Dublin to be cared for by his estranged grandfather that he hardly knows. It is 2016. This is a time-slip novel in which Jack is transported back to 1916, in Easter week.
Jack’s dilemma in the 21st century is reflected in the conflict he encounters in 1916. In spite of his pain he makes friends both in modern Dublin and in the past. The portal through which he moves between times is an old blanket which belonged to his late grandmother. The time-slip element is skilfully managed.
There are very convincing moments of tension and action. Casual bullying is very well rendered and the characters are not at all stereotyped. Jack fears family secrets, conflicted identity and abandonment. His fears are convincingly overcome in the end.
There are some problems in the provision of excessive detail, excessive explanation of history, and, occasionally, overwriting that good editing could have cut. But like the best historical fiction, this book has important things to say about the here and now.