This book, along with “Princes of Ireland” is typical Rutherfurd: one location and stories about a set of loosely-connected characters through centuries of history. In this case the place is Dublin and the period starts with the last pre-Christian years and extends into the Irish Civil War.
I liked “Princes” a little better. “Rebels” started to drag a bit. They were both good, but not quite as enjoyable as some Rutherfurd’s other novels.
I’ve read several of
Rutherfurd’s place-based epic historical novels. They follow the
Michener pattern: interlocked stories of fictional characters that
take place in one location over hundreds or thousands of years. The
model works; I’ve enjoyed them all.
“Paris” — which I had the good fortune to read in Paris — is a little
different in that there are fewer time lines. His main focus is on the
late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result the characters in this
book are more fully developed — and a more interesting — than
the ones in his previous books.
This was my favorite book of his that I’ve read so far.
As he’s done in his other books, Rutherfurd
takes one area – in this case England’s “New Forest” – and uses it as a
setting for a loosely linked series of stories. And as I’ve done before,
I took a fat Rutherford book – this one – on a long trip, in this case
Aside from having a hight content-to-weight ratio, “The Forest” has some
good stories. In fact there isn’t a weak section in the book, which
spans the early Norman era to the present day.
Rutherfurd’s books are ideal for the traveler: they provide a lot of
entertainment for their weight and are long enough to last for hours of
train, plane, and hotel reading. Since I had read Rutherfurd’s
“London” on a trip to France, it
seemed appropriate to read “Russka” on a trip to Italy. “Russka” made me
want to go to Russia. I don’t know what I’ll read on that trip – maybe
his books on Ireland.
“Russka” follows the Michener pattern: it’s the story of a fictional
place (or two: Russia so big and diverse that Rutherfurd sets his
stories in a northern town called Russka and a southern one of the same
name) through hundreds of years. The characters are loosely connected
through time by family ties. The tales aren’t evenly distributed
chronologically. More time is spent on the 19th and early 20th
centuries, so the book reads like several novellas leading up to a
novel. While the early stories (the novellas) are good, the last third
of the book (the novel) is even better, dramatically portraying the
shifting fortunes of aristocrats, peasants, and the middle class during
the turbulent decades that lead up to the revolution.
This is the story of Russia, not the Soviet Union. For the most part
Rutherfurd skips over the Stalin decades and the Cold War and ends the
book with a short section set in modern Russian.
This is a big book about a big country, but it’s so good that, in the
end, it seems too short.
This is a fat fictional history of London from ancient times to the
Blitz told as a series of stories loosely connected by multi-generation
family ties. Rutherford’s human characters aren’t especially notable,
but his portrayal of the main character – London itself – is both broad
and deep. Its sheer size makes it (the paperback version, anyway) an
ideal book to take on a long trip. I read it on at trip to… France.