One of Ireland’s finest authors of historical fiction for any age, and in our opinion criminally underrated, Brian Gallagher is back with a new book, a new setting – of sorts – and a new decade. Let’s see what Lisa Redmond thought of Arrivals.
Brian Gallagher is one of Ireland’s most popular writers of children’s historical fiction. His books set in and around significant moments in Irish history such as The Easter Rising and the 1913 Strike and Lockout have enthralled readers aged 10 and upwards. His new book Arrivals sees a departure for the author as the story is set entirely in Canada.
The book has two timelines. Firstly, Ciara Farrelly arriving from Dublin with her father to sort out her grandfather’s belongings after his death and trying to unravel a mystery he left for her to figure out. Secondly, as Ciara learns about her grandfather, Mike, his story also unfolds as we learn about the summer of 1928 when Mike makes friends with lonely Wilson and artistic Lucy and together they form the G club. The three young friends fish, explore, sail and attempt to uncover a terrible crime bringing themselves to the attention of a nasty smuggler.
As in his previous books, Gallagher is unafraid to explore contentious political territory as the children become aware of the stark differences in their lives and their histories. The title refers not only to the arrival of Ciara and her father but to the history of Irish immigration to Canada, the divisions between Catholic and Protestant; North and South that the Irish carried with them and of course the position of the native population who Lucy is keenly aware have lost land to the new arrivals.
“Gallagher is a consummate storyteller, the characters are brilliantly brought to life, the writing is perfectly pitched and the story rockets along …”
The three also have different visions of the future; Lucy longs to attend art college and paint, Wilson wants to be a pilot and Mike simply wants to learn. While Lucy and Wilson’s parents may have their own ideas about what their children should do, Mike’s parents – having come to Canada for a fresh start – are eager for their son to have a better life. Through them Gallagher addresses the issues of the many Irish men who served in the British forces during WWI and arrived home to an Ireland transformed by the Easter Rising, while many embraced the ideas of the rebels, others horrified by war felt their future lay elsewhere.
Although the book is filled with ideas, opinions and historical background this never detracts from the pace of the book. Gallagher is a consummate storyteller, the characters are brilliantly brought to life, the writing is perfectly pitched and the story rockets along making this an exciting and page turning read for any child with an interest in history or just a love of adventure.
Kids Books Crew Verdict
If you like this book you might also like: Gerard Whelan or Nicola Pierce, two other O'Brien Press authors.
Will appeal to readers who enjoy: Historical fiction with pace.