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Out of Ireland by Christopher Koch
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Out of Ireland was the sixth novel of Christopher Koch (1932-2013), one of our most treasured Australian writers. The book was first published in 1999, and won the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction in Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for (2000), and also the Colin Roderick Award (1999).

At 702 pages it’s a long book, but it’s a great story when you have long idle hours to spend, lost in a book. Any temptation I had to stop loafing in bed after a chest infection and do some long-neglected housework was quickly quashed by Out of Ireland. I did not want to put aside the book at all…

It’s the story of a Irish rebel called Devereaux, but – like all the other Koch novels – its focus is on issues of trust and betrayal. Based loosely on the fate of rebels transported to Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania) after the failed 1848 uprising, the novel purports to be the diaries of its main character Devereaux and is narrated in his voice. This fictional Devereaux aligned himself with the Young Ireland movement but was from the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy so although he considers himself Irish, he does not speak Gaelic and has had very little contact with what he calls the peasant class. He is torn between frustration about their limitations in terms of the rebellion, and romanticising them as noble equivalents of the French revolutionaries.

Devereaux’s English ancestors had taken up estates in Ireland after its conquest by England but by the time the story takes place they have lost their estates and although he’s had an education at Trinity College, he considers himself middle-class. As far as the Irish convicts he meets are concerned, he is gentry, but amongst those transported to Van Dieman’s Land in the same crackdown as he has been, there is the aspirational Liam Kinane who reveres Devereaux’s rebellion but despises his ancestry.

This ambivalence in Devereaux’s character plays out in his love for the convict girl Kathleen O’Rahilly.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2016/08/29/out-of-ireland-by-christopher-koch/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 28, 2016 |
Great story, but not a light read, either in content nor length. It's a saga of great proportions. Great history ( )
  CarolPreston | Apr 25, 2016 |
Totally engaging and I can't put it down. The book stands on its own, first of all, as a ripping good yarn by a fine storyteller. The novel is formidable in size (over 700 pages), but reads quickly and well. Secondly, it is a fascinating introduction to the situation of mid-19th century Irish revolutionaries, and their plight when transported to English prison colonies. Koch's protagonists are based upon a handful of members of the Young Ireland movement who were actually transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1848. However, the specific characters and events are fictional. There are some great quotes in the book, and overall Koch's writing gives insight (I feel) to the particular national character of Australians today, given their brutal colonial history. I would love this book to be made into a film. ( )
1 vote velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
A novel of epic proportions, this is the story of Robert Devereux, leader of the revolutionary Young Ireland group. The novel purports to be Devereux’ diaries, recently discovered. This works quite well, though it is difficult to believe the diaries could have contained such extensive political and philosophical discussions – all reported in full detail. It is a well-written and fascinating account of a young idealist, transported as a political prisoner. After a year imprisoned in a hulk in a harbour at Bermuda, Devereux is sent to Van Diemen’s Land and allowed to live as a ticket of leave holder, as long as he remains in one police district. After a time at Bothwell, he takes a half share in a hop farm in the New Norfolk district, with an ex-convict (Langford) who was his servant on the convict ship. To Devereux’ distress, his fiancee in Ireland rejects his plan that she travel to DDL to marry him. However, he falls in love with Kathleen, an Irish peasant woman, and for a time, life at Sorell Creek is pleasant. However, hgis colleagues, whom he meets (illegally) from time to time want to escape to America and continue the fight for Ireland. Robert is drawn to this idea, but Kathleen is pregnant and he will not desert her. Tragically, she dies after giving childbirth, and in his despair, Robert decides he will try to escape. While it is 700 pages long, and could perhaps have dealt less with the complex issues of how the varying motives and tactics of the various rebels fail to deliver Ireland, this is a major book, with great insights into the Van Diemen’s Land of the 1850’s. ( )
  dwate | Feb 23, 2010 |
A great read which is based closely on real events. Set in Tasmania during the very early years of convict transportation.
A wonderful historic tale that contains historic facts woven through the story as well as richly portrayed characters that keep you interested to the end.
The author held off publishing this book until an older antecedent had died to avoid causing the family embarrassment. After reading this story, the family whose ancestor was the convict has every reason to be proud of their ancestor. Although he did originally commit a crime, he more than redeemed himself in the actions described in this book, and came across as a far better person, with a clearer set of values than the political activist who is the central character in this book. ( )
  helenathome | Jul 19, 2009 |
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A leader of the Young Ireland rebellion of 1848, Robert Devereaux is an Irish gentleman who is prepared to hazard a life of privilege in the fight for his country's freedom. Transported to Van Diemen's Land as a political prisoner, he enters a life that greatly changes him, falling in love with a young Irish convict woman, and through her coming to know the people he long romanticised. But his cause, and the life he has lost, will not let him go.… (more)

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