About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#60: Trinity

If I haven't forgotten anything (and if I have, it was probably meant to be forgotten), my 60th book of the year was Leon Uris's classic, Trinity (New York: Bantam, 1977).

I've forgotten many things in the last-minute, pre-vacation packing flurry, but I can't remember the last time I went away without a few good books. This time, the selection was a challenge; it was an unprecedented 2-week trip and we needed to take all our camping gear, so I knew space would be at a premium. Ergo, I was looking for a) really long paperbacks, so that I could cram the maximum possible number of pages/hours into each precious inch of suitcase, and b) books I already owned, as the likelihood of leaving at least something behind when you spend 14 nights in 7 different places is pretty darned high.

At 815 pages, my 50-cent non-trade paperback copy of Trinity qualified just about perfectly. I ended up finishing it in an inexpensive Louisville chain hotel on our last night away, and found it one of those books you're sorry to finish. While I went ahead and started Pillars of the Earth the same night (the rest of my family was watching a movie in our one hotel room, and it was too early to go to bed), doing so almost felt wrong ... and I know in my memory, Leon Uris's epic account of the troubles in Northern Ireland will always be linked to campfires in southern Appalachia.

"The 'terrible beauty' that is Ireland comes alive in this mighty epic that re-creates the Emerald Isle's fierce struggle for independence. Trinity is a saga of glories and defeats, triumphs and tragedies, lived by a young Catholic rebel and the beautiful and valiant Protestant girl who defied her heritage to join him. Leon Uris has painted a masterful portrait of a beleaguered people divided by religion and wealth -- impoverished Catholic peasants pitted against a Protestant aristocracy wielding power over life and death."

Opening Line:
"I recall with utter clarity the first great shock of my life."

My Take:
I hate to call something "epic," because it feels like I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Every publisher of a book that spans more than a year wants to slap the label on, and my 12-year-old freely applies it to, oh, particularly exciting and memorable (in a good way) highlights of our recent vacation. (Whitewater rafting was epic; so were zip-lining and Mammoth Cave. For that matter, the same may have been said of horseback riding or the larger-than-life burrito she had for dinner in Kentucky one night, but I eventually lost track.)

But Trinity really is. I wasn't sure at first how well I'd like the somewhat-odd blend of plot with historical/ instructional passages woven in, but it mostly worked. The first chapter, where sometime-narrator Seamus's shock turns out to be the death of neighbor/ friend/ protagonist Conor Larkin's grandfather Kilty, is brilliant; Uris manages not only to give the reader a taste of day-to-day village life in the Catholic section of Ballyutogue, Ulster, but to really make you care about the characters and the Irish struggle for independence. I've heard off and on about the Irish potato famine ever since I can remember, but this is the first time I've felt like I had some idea what it may have been to live through it; the main story begins decades later, in 1885, but we experience the famine vividly through the memories of Conor and Seamus's fathers and those of village elder/shaman Daddo Friel.

I still can't decide whether to quibble with Conor's being too perfect a hero, but I don't think I will -- even if he is, it didn't spoil the book for me or diminish my enjoyment appreciably. Uris is definitely on my "seek out for long trips" reading list after this one.

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