In the Charente region of south-west France people will tell you that, for one month after Easter, ‘The Moon is Red in April.’ The action of this novel does later shift to the Charente – but not before Ellen Nagle, Richard’s O’Shaughnessy’s Irish sweetheart, arrives in Paris in pursuit of him. Dressed as a man, with her hair cut short, Ellen has travelled on horseback from County Cork to Dublin – a 200-mile journey which has taken her two weeks to complete – sold her jewellery and, posing as a potential recruit for the Irish Brigade, wangled a passage on board a ship bound for Brest. From there she has ridden to Paris, arriving smelly and dirty with torn clothes at the grand house where Richard is staying with the Cantillon family. Confronted not only with Richard but also with Catherine Cantillon, it is then ‘that Ellen, who had never been afraid in her life, had her first meeting with fear.’
In ‘The Moon is Red in April’ the war between Ellen and Catherine is paralleled by the war between the forces of England and France. As the Irish Brigade tops the odds in favour of the French at the battle of Fontenoy another, very different journey begins for Richard and the women who love him.
Note: After the restoration of the French monarchy Louis XVIII was obliged to dissolve the Irish Brigade, lest he offend his English allies. Holding a review of the last three remaining regiments, he solemnly presented them with a farewell banner of white silk, on which was embroidered the Irish harp, shamrocks ,the fleur-de-lis and the motto: ‘Semper et Ubique Fidelis.’ Over the course of a 100 years, 500,000 Irishmen had fallen in the service of France.
Joy Martin was born in Limerick. A former journalist, she is the author of eight novels. Her agents are Coombs Moylett Maclean, 120 New Kings Road, Fulham, London SW6 4LZ.
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