This searing novel, set in the trenches of Flanders and the Irish midlands, tells of two friends from a rural town who join the British army and the devastating effect the First World War has on their lives. Con and Matt witness and participate in the terrible savagery of the battles of the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele, where stretcher-bearers, soldiers, officers and horses alike vied for life among the carnage. Back home, Kitty, Con's sister, gives a focus to their childhood and hopes for a future. Matt survives and returns to Kitty and to an Ireland transformed by the events of the 1916 Easter Rising. During the 1920s, in the aftermath of both conflicts, the Big House becomes a target for an IRA unit, and the brutality of war is re-enacted on a local stage. Phelan's masterly Faulkneresque narrative conveys with sheer lyric power the physicality of warfare, and the trials of peacetime, capturing its ravages and repercussions for the human spirit, in a country on the cusp of nationhood. The "Canal Bridge" is a memorable, complex and dynamic triumph of story-telling that will endure in the memory.
TOM PHELAN was born in 1940 and raised in Mountmellick, Co. Laois. He was ordained in 1965, emigrated to the USA in 1970 and left the priesthood in 1977. He now lives in New Jersey, where he teaches English. He is author of two previous novels: In the Season of the Daisies (1993) and Iscariot (1999).