Novelist Tom Phelan.
By Irish Echo Staff
The U.S. paperback edition of World War I-set “The Canal Bridge” will be published by Arcade next month, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. Tom Phelan’s acclaimed novel will then get an official launch at the Turn of the Corkscrew bookstore, 110 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, on July 21, at 7 p.m. Storyteller Jim Hawkins will be the guest speaker.
Prior to its hardcover publication in America, “The Canal Bridge” had been published in Ireland by Brandon
“Another First World War masterpiece,” said the Irish Independent at the time. “Ambitious, accomplished, and deeply moving.”
Commented Irish Echo reviewer Kelly Kerney, “The writing is consistently stunning.”
Kevin Baker, the author of several critically-acclaimed historical novels, has written: “’The Canal Bridge’ is a tour de force of writing, passionate, moving, and brilliant. Here is World War I in all its madness, and its terrible humanity.”
And another New Yorker, Peter Quinn, said: “There is no false bravado in Phelan’s riveting, unsparing account, no sentimentality, no hollow heroes, no hyper-patriotic blather. Phelan’s characters live and breathe and bleed. Phelan’s fiction is the real thing. ‘The Canal Bridge’ is a classic.”
The story begins in 1913 in the Irish Midlands, where Matthias “Matt” Wrenn and Con Hatchel, decide they want to see the world, and the easiest way to do that would be to join the British army. However, while en route to India, their troop ship is recalled and they are deployed in the battlefields of World War I, as stretcher bearers. They are witnesses to the carnage at Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele. Back home in Ireland, remembering their carefree days on the banks of the local canal, Con’s sister and Matt’s lover, Kitty Hatchel, hopes for their safe return.
Phelan, the author of several novels, is at work on a memoir about growing up on his family’s farm in County Laois in the 1940s and ‘50s, extracts of which have appeared in the Irish Echo.
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