Only With Blood

Only With BloodOnly With Blood by Therese Down
Genres: Historical
Published by Lion Fiction on July 27, 2015
Pages: 352


About Only With Blood (from the back cover):
When dying Jack Flynn decides he needs a bride so that he can father a son, his young wife Caitlin proves far more than he intended to buy. Jack Flynn, strong and aggressive but slowly dying of tuberculosis on his farm in Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland, decides to acquire purchase a young wife who can bear him sons to inherit his family s land. His choice, Caitlin Spillane, is less than half his age, attractive and intelligent, and resents bitterly the obedience that is forced upon her.

When a young firebrand, a supporter of the IRA, arrives in the village, he and Caitlin are drawn together in their detestation of Flynn. Flynn, traumatized by his own insurgent IRA experiences twenty years earlier, is secretly convinced that Eamonn de Valera s more diplomatic, peaceful approach to Ireland s problems is the only sane one. Could Caitlin be won for the cause, and leave her unloved husband?

Only with Blood provides readers with an intense look at Ireland during World War II. Rather than focusing on Ireland’s involvement in the war overall, this story focuses on the insurgent activities of the IRA during that time. I will be honest and admit that I didn’t read this book in its entirety. I very nearly didn’t finish it at all, but after making it to about the halfway point, I decided to skim the rest to at least get an idea of how things ended for the characters. There are certainly several great qualities to the story; the details of life at that time, particularly for a farmer, are brought to life vividly. The degrees of helplessness that certain characters faced is apparent and good indication of the troubled times in which they lived. For a young woman with dreams of furthering her education, this helplessness is brought into sharp relief for readers.

There are certainly several great qualities to the story; the details of life at that time, particularly for a farmer, are brought to life vividly.

There is nothing wrong with the writing found within these pages; it’s concise and flows well. The characters speech and mannerisms feel accurate for the time period. I know very little about Ireland during this time, other than what I might have seen in passing the History Channel or read in other fictional accounts. It’s very apparent that Therese did a lot of research and is very knowledgeable about the subject matter. However, for my personal taste as a reader, the story was a little too heavy on the historical details; it seems that those with only a rudimentary knowledge during this time might struggle with the sections that focused heavily on the politics of that day. The history and the politics overpower the character development, instead of serving as a vehicle for their story arcs.

For me, no matter how riveting the subject matter may be, if I am not able find at least one character that inspires some empathy and caring in me, it makes for one long read.

Politics play a heavy part for Donal’s character, but we see very little of him on the inside. His change of heart seems a bit sudden and came so late in the story that I barely had any time to change my feelings toward him.  Though the description says that he and Caitlin are drawn together through mutual hate, they have very few interactions together, so there was not tension to that aspect of the story.

For me, no matter how riveting the subject matter may be, if I am not able find at least one character that inspires some empathy and caring in me, it makes for one long read. Caitlin, who seems to be the obvious candidate for a reader’s empathy, is an intelligent, beautiful girl, but even when forced into a marriage and life not of her choosing, didn’t rouse anything in me except for some mild pity. My favorite character had to be Jack, who survived a horrible childhood and was alone and ill at the story’s beginning; he does have some redemptive qualities toward the end of the story. Perhaps if I had just gotten a glimpse of his intentions toward Caitlin, it wouldn’t have felt so “too little, too late.”

I recommend Only with Blood for readers wanting a novel that focuses heavily on the political history of Ireland, specifically during World War II.

If the story as a whole would have focused more on Jack and Caitlin’s marriage – perhaps with Donal’s character as a way to insert further tension into the story, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. As it was, it took a long while to get to what I considered the meat of the story. The side characters that did have some redeemable qualities were not focused on enough to get a true feel for their story; it was just in the peripheral and didn’t capture me like I would have wished.

Though Only with Blood was not the book for me, I’m sure there are other readers out there who might enjoy it. I recommend Only with Blood for readers wanting a novel that focuses heavily on the political history of Ireland, specifically during World War II.

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