The Young Rebels

The hero of this novel is John Joe, a pupil of St Enda’s school run by Patrick Pearse in the Hermitage at Rathfarnham to the south of Dublin city. The action of the novel extends from the Dublin Lockout in 1913 to the Rising of Easter 1916. It is written in a firstperson narrative in a continuous present tense, as if it were a diary of events. As a pupil at St Enda’s school, John Joe learns to be a republican rebel and becomes involved in the preparation for the 1916 Rising. As Pearse always maintained that the education question was at the heart of the Irish question, using his school as a setting to explore one boy’s pathway into revolutionary republicanism is valid. However John Joe is not a successful character. He has no agency in the action and is simply an observer of events. There is too much use of the clumsy device of overheard conversations to convey the movement of events and the looming confrontation. The use of the continuous present tense, instead of generating tension, is wearying for the reader. Although John Joe repeatedly assures us that St Enda’s is a unique school unlike any other, we are never shown how that is so. This is surely a missed opportunity. St Enda’s was indeed special and unique in its curriculum, staff and teaching and a young reader would enjoy a more sophisticated exploration of these topics. Other interesting topics that might have merited further exploration are Pearse as a substitute for John Joe’s own brutish father or the relationship between John Joe and another pupil, Roger, who is Protestant and therefore culturally a Unionist. In the absence of a strong central character or complex themes, the novel depends entirely on the accuracy and immediacy of its narrative of the period leading up to the Rising. Despite the odd jarring note, which include children playing on the stoop (Dublin houses do have stoops), wailing ambulances, or confused topography that has Westmoreland Street leading into Kelly’s Corner, the novel is refreshingly committed to the heroic interpretation of 1916 and has none of the doubt nor irony that are the hallmarks of the revisionist perspective. – See more at:

The Young Rebels Book Cover The Young Rebels
Morgan Llywelyn
O'Brien Press
Sep 2006