'Strumpet City' is Chosen Book for 2013!

Dublin City Public Libraries and Dublin UNESCO City of Literature are delighted to announce that the chosen book for April 2013 is 'Strumpet City' by James Plunkett. Published by Gill and Macmillan, it depicts a pivotal event in Irish social history - the mass lockout of trade unionists by employers in 1913 - and has a wonderfully memorable cast of characters - not least the city itself. One reviewer commented - "if Ulysses is Dublin's odyssey, Strumpet City is Dublin's epic". The same reviewer is of the opinion that if anyone is seeking the Great Irish Novel - they need look no further.

Events ranging from photographic exhibitions to street rhymes for children to talks and music of the period will encourage everyone to engage with the book.


Review of Strumpet City on Centenary of ITGWU


Written about Dublin just 4 years after James Joyce’s Ulysses, Plunkett captures the spirit and soul of the city at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The pictures of Dublin and ‘Kingstown’ painted by Plunkett evoke the culture and conflicts of the time.  As Mary and Fitz meander through the rain sodden streets and bridges of the capital, it is almost possible to smell the pungency of poverty amid the teeming tenements, which the author describes as ‘heavy and unpleasant’.


Mrs. Gilchrest in the final months of her life recalls her feelings for a dead Fenian and reminds her colleague in service, Mary that she experienced the horrors and starvation of the Great famine!  She contrasts this destitute with her own treatment by the well off Bradshaws, which she attributes to ‘being well thought of’! Nonetheless when she is definitely confirmed as ‘unable to work’ she is duly shipped of to the Union, a true testament to the capitalist values of the day.  Indeed in the midst of this class war it is no wonder that Big Jim Larkin’s principles as the voice of Labour and justice had a huge resonance in the Dublin of that time. 


The shadow of Larkin and to a lesser degree Connolly is forever in the background as the lives of the working class characters wearily drag through every day struggles just to stay alive.  The Church is, of course, also present in the form of Fr. O’Connor who places more emphasis on the delicacies of his former parishioners in what is now Dun Laoghaire than on the wretched conditions of his inner city St. Brigid’s parish, where his whiskey imbibing Parish Priest tries to educate him in the real meaning of humility and obedience!


The novel is written in the format of 3 books, at two-year intervals from 1907 through to 1914.  Book One concludes as Jim Larkin addresses dockers from a rowing boat on the Liffey on behalf of the striking carters.   It is particularly appropriate in this the centenary of the foundation of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union to celebrate these struggles. It was the giant like influence of Larkin that inspired James Plunkett through his inner city working class background to pen this epic novel of the twentieth century.   The novel is peppered with cameos of poverty stricken Dublin in the early twentieth century.  Pat Bannister the romantic revolutionary and his loyal friendship with Lilly Maxwell, the street wise woman, Rashers Tierney and his terrier Rusty.  Rashers survives on the sale of ribbons and ballads.  His exhortation to the Dublin working class to unite in struggle gains him the title of ‘Bard of the Revolution’!


Book two opens with the death in May1910 of King Edward V11 and concludes with the loss of both legs of one of Larkin’s activists in a horrific industrial accident!  The final fifteen chapters comprise Book Three, which are devoted to that tumultuous period in Irish history, the 1913 Lockout.