The Last King of Ireland by Brian Igoe is the story of Daniel O'Connell. While this book is a novel, the characters and situations have been faithfully interpreted according to historical facts. The Last King of Ireland follows Daniel O’Connell from his birth and upbringing in the family of what was really a smuggler baron; his education in Ireland, France and England; traces his amazing career as a barrister, describes his wonderful marriage, and analyzes the gradual shift from the law to politics. As a politician he achieved greatness, leading the party which held the balance of power in England in the run-up to the Great Reform Bill of 1832 which was in no small part his work, and eventually becoming what was very, very close to the ruler of Ireland, the last, though uncrowned, King.
As a fan of history and a person with Irish roots I found this story to be very fascinating. Only recently have I began to explore my Irish heritage and this book was a great place to delve into the deep history of Irish politics. I am sure that many people are aware that Ireland has a volatile history in politics and religion. The Last King of Ireland provides a great perspective on Irish political division and social conflict from the life of one of the Ireland’s greatest (and last) leaders. I learned so much about Irish history and politics in the 280 pages of this book.
This book was uniquely written and it’s hard to describe. It is written from the point-of-view of Daniel’s friend, Charles Bianconi, although there is no written journal or record belonging to Bianconi on which to base this novel. The characters, situations, and historical facts are accurate however the perspective is imagined for the sake of the novel. There is a lack of personal emotion on the part of Daniel O’Connell because the story is being told from the perspective of a third-person who is not privy to the internal feelings and emotions of the central character. It is certainly not a flaw in the story, it did not bother me one bit, but it is something to be aware of before you read this book. There are a lot of facts, a lot of specific events and historical data but little emotion and intimate feeling in the book. There were moments when it read like a historical journal opposed to a novel but I had no objections. It was an educational journey and I loved it.
Overall, I loved The Last King of Ireland. It was an interesting, educational, political and charming story from beginning to end. There is no doubt that Brian Igoe was very involved in researching his facts and confirming details before writing this book. The care and precision that went into writing The Last King of Ireland is impressive. I can’t, in good conscious, recommend this book to all readers because there is a part of the reading community that would not connect with this book. It is real and factual, completely omitting the fantasy and imagination of most novels. Those readers who are fascinated with history and politics who will love it; for me, it was an ideal fit and I adored it.
Review by Ashley LaMar
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