In search of a great fireside book
It’s odd to find a book available only in French in Ottawa but available in English over the other side of the Ottawa river!
That was my experience recently when I tried to locate Leon Uris’ Trinity, a novel of Ireland from the Ottawa Public Library after it was recommended to me by a friend.
Unable to find an English copy from the catalogues of the Morisset Library at the University of Ottawa, or the MacOdrum library at Carleton University, I made my way through the snow-covered January streets to our local branch of the Ottawa Public Library at 377 Rideau Street. The copy of the book that was in Ottawa was in French, but the attendant at the desk was able to identify a copy at the Lucy-Faris Library at 115 Principale St. in Gatineau. I was glad to find the library staff so eager to help, issuing me a Smart Library card and telephoning the library in Gatineau to reserve the book for when I was able to pick it up. I really appreciated the friendly service at the Rideau library, as it ended my frustrating solo search. Two days later, across the river in Aylmer, I was pleased to be issued a Gatineau library card to access the book and others in their system for a year.
As for the book, although it’s over 750 pages in length, it’s very easy to read. Written by a master of historical fiction, the book covers Ireland’s troubled history from 1840 to 1916 – a story of cynical corruption and 19th century ruling class greed, where the owners of Ulster committed crimes against Protestants and Catholics alike since the Plantation days. The small Anglican ruling class used religious differences to maintain power, setting working class Presbyterians and Catholics against one another in an example of ‘divide and rule.’
The author did his research while travelling through the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland some months after the Bloody Sunday or Bogside Massacre of 1972, amidst shootings, curfews and bombs. His nine months of exposure to danger conveys authenticity in his novel.
As for me, having enjoyed the beautiful countryside of Ireland on a couple of trips in recent times, I found the book useful for gaining a better perspective of the 1840–1916 period as the great narrative combines fiction with extensive historical data. I’m highly recommending Trinity to anyone interested in learning more about the political and economic oppression, often disguised as religious conflict, of the native population of a Celtic country. This book is considered Uris’ best novel.