Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Plunkett's Strumpet City

James Plunkett, Strumpet City (1969) This is Plunkett's biggest and most ambitious work and generally regarded as his masterpiece. It is a novel of social realism with obvious debts to Dickens and Balzac. A large cast of characters live out personal and social dramas during the vicious dockside labor wars in Dublin from 1907 to 1914, important stage-setting for the subsequent war for independence. Try reading this one first and then reading Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry.

Meanwhile Strumpett's book caricatures the three priests of a poor parish, three working men on the front lines of the strikes and lockouts and their women and families, a rich but worldly and liberal-minded owner and his less enlightened tenement-owning friends, two destitute men who beg in the streets and others (the characters weave in and out of each others' lives). The title character, of course, is Dublin itself, a shocking strumpet of a city where all the foibles of human nature are laid bare for all the world to see. This is a big novel, 549 pages, but if you like to read progressive, historical novels of social realism then you'll enjoy Strumpet City.

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