A young American, who only signed on as a seaman to forget the humiliation of his football career's disastrous end, is shipwrecked in neutral Ireland three months before Pearl Harbor. He soon becomes entangled with the IRA and the Nazis, but he's determined to get his revenge.
Tullykillane is one of seven volumes in David Westwood’s enjoyable series of novels about World War II. In this story, Sean Russell, a Bostonian of Irish ancestry, is the sole survivor of a German U-Boat attack on his merchant freighter. Marooned in Ireland after the loss of his ship, he’s torn about what to do next – seek revenge on the Germans, get home to America, or stay in Ireland with a vivacious Irish lass who he’s attracted to. And therein lays the charm of Westwood’s stories. He creates well-drawn characters, fleshes them out in settings filled with accurate, minute details of the time and place, and then puts them in situations in which they have to make heartbreaking moral decisions.
The protagonist, Sean Russell is a decent young kid whose dilemma becomes a metaphor of the hard choices that all ordinary men and women face in the maelstrom of wartime. He wants peace but has to make war. The story is filled with ambiguity. When Russell meets the people of the village of Tullykillane he realizes that he’s surrounded by people at odds with themselves. Matthew O’Reilly, the tough policeman whose daughter Russell falls for, is hated by neighbors for doing “the Englishman’s bidding,” but feels that Churchill is less dangerous to his home than Hitler. The IRA members, who are cooperating with a German agent in order to get weapons, have mixed feelings of their own, and Russell is never quite certain he should tell Irish school kids the truth about America; better perhaps to let them keep the illusions formed from American gangster and comedy films (and in fact the method Westwood chooses for attacking the German U-boat supplying the arms to the IRA men is itself a nice homage to a Warner Brothers wartime movie, “Action in the North Atlantic”).
A very enjoyable read, Tullykillene is, like war itself, a story that avoids a simple black and white formula. Readers who enjoy it should consider getting the entire series.
Reviewed by: Terry Shoptaugh (2012)