Name upon Name
Little Island Books, August 2015
Historical Fiction, 8+
Belfast, 1916. Fourteen-year-old Helen feels caught between two conflicting identities. Her mother’s family are Catholic, her father’s Protestant. Caught between two faiths, and between Britain and Ireland, Helen doesn’t know where she fits. Her cousin Sandy is fighting in the British forces, and her cousin Michael is keen to join up. As a girl, Helen can have less direct involvement with the war or with the conflict in Dublin. But she receives letters from her cousins, and learns from them the terrible cost of war. Helen must take a stand herself, and work out her own identity.
Name upon Name is a compelling book that will entertain and educate its readers. The historical accuracy reflects Wilkinson’s in-depth study of the period, and the details such as the school novels Helen reads are fascinating. The strong characters give the narrative heart and make this a memorable read. The Belfast setting and the female protagonist mean this book offers a different perspective on the events of 1916. Wilkinson raises a number of important issues for her readers to consider, such as women’s education. Helen’s teacher Miss Cassidy encourages her to further her education: “Why not? It’s 1916. Lots of girls go to college now.” Helen is a very relatable protagonist and through her readers become engaged with the conflicts of her the time. She grows throughout the novel, developing her own opinions and becoming more certain of herself. Wilkinson presents the reader with the larger conflicts of World War One and the 1916 Rising through Michael and Sandy’s letters but she also focuses very much on the conflicts Helen experiences at home and at school. This is a very worthwhile read – both as historical fiction and as a coming-of-age story. Highly recommended, a perfect class novel for the forthcoming 1916 centenary celebrations.
Sheena Wilkinson wrote an excellent article for Writing.ie about historical fiction called ‘The Vital Details’, check it out here.