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The Rising

Tóbín, Bairbre

Toronto: McArthur & Company


The Rising

Plot Summary

The novel begins in October of 1891 in Killbride, Ireland. Michael Carty, 16 years old, meets his father along the road on his way home from Parnell’s funeral. Jim Carty collapses and dies, and Michael, who’s mother is already deceased and his brother Jim is living in England, is left to deal with his loss on his own. Michael is outraged when he learns that Father Roche refuses to give Jim Carty a proper burial because he was a Fenian, and therefore excommunicated from the Catholic church. Mrs. Murphy, a friend to the Carty’s tries to reason with the priest, but he vehemently refuses. Eventually Jim is granted a proper funeral service after Willie Redmond, an MP, speaks with Father Roche on the matter.

After this incident Michael is reproachful of everyone in Killbride, and thus he enthusiastically takes the opportunity to move to Enniscorthy. There he takes a job with the railway and vows to take the Fenian oath and help free Ireland from British rule.

Time moves forward to May 1900 and Margaret Dempsey is being encouraged by her mother Mai to find a suitable husband. Margaret first becomes involved with Patrick Stone, but she quickly becomes disinterested and disgusted by his crude and boorish behavior. Margaret’s father then passes away, and she eventually breaks the news to her hysterical and grieving mother about Patrick ending his relationship with her. Mai shows no sympathy for her daughter and fears for Margaret’s future. Margaret starts to take Gaelic League classes with her friend Kitty Furlong and there she meets Michael. The pair fall in love and against her mother’s wishes, Margaret marries Michael.

Fourteen years later, the couple have four boys together and Michael continues to work at the railway. He has joined the IRB and the Irish Volunteers, and is angered when many of his peers from these groups join the British Army when the war breaks out. Michael then learns that two of the IRB’s leading members who had been living in England would be returning to Ireland, and his brother Jim is one of them, and the brothers are reunited. The IRB start planning for the Rising, and Michael is arrested for tearing down an RIC poster. He is sent to Waterford jail, where he is found not-guilty of the more serious charges and sent home. Jim becomes partially paralyzed and comes to live with Margaret and Michael.

The last section of the novel takes place in 1916 where the Rising takes place in Enniscorthy. At first Michael believes it to be a great success, but then a Peace Committee is formed by some citizens. They negotiate a surrender with the British and the leaders of the Rising, as well as other IRB members, including Michael, are arrested. Michael is sent to Frongoch, where he learns from Margaret that Jim has died. Many Irish nationalists are executed, and this only earns their movement more support. On Christmas Eve 1916 Michael is freed from the closed Frongoch and joyfully returns home to his proud family and holds his baby daughter for the first time.

Main Characters

  • Michael Carty

  • Margaret Dempsey

Significant Minor Characters

  • Jim Carty

Publication History

The novel was first published in Dublin by New Island Books in 2001. McArthur & Company in Toronto published editions in 2001 and 2002, and then a paperback edition in 2003. In 2003 the CNIB in Toronto produced audiobook versions of the novel for cassette and CD. Novel is currently in print.

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