"A lad could be sent to any place in the world, to any spot in the empire on which the sun never set, an empire with huge mountains and lakes with no bottoms to them; waterfalls a mile high; rivers a hundred miles across where they floated into the sea."
Ireland, 1913, on the eve of the First World War. Matthias Wrenn and Con Hatchel, inseparable friends from Ballyrannel in the Irish midlands, join the British army in search of escape, adventure, the wonder of exotic lands, and the security of regular money in their pockets. To some they are making something of their lives; to others, they are traitors to Ireland.
As they sail to their first posting in India, they find themselves diverted to France, where they soon become part of the slaughterhouse that was the First World War. For four years Con and Matthias serve as stretcher-bearers among the terrible savagery of the Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele.
Back home in Ballyrannel, Con's sister and Matthias's sweetheart, Kitty, recalls their carefree childhood on the banks of the local canal, and hopes for a future after the war. But as the lads battle for survival amidst the horror of the trenches, the Easter Rebellion against British rule begins in Dublin and casts divisive shadows across the country.
A visceral, lyrical evocation of the physical and emotional devastation of the First World War, The Canal Bridge is a compelling story of friendship, love, and tragedy that lingers long in the memory.
"From Phelan’s effectively constructed and emotionally honest novel about Irish participation in WWI, the reader gains a new perspective on how the Great War decimated lives throughout Europe….As is observed, "There are more ways of getting killed in a war than by bullets."
–Booklist, *starred review,* indicating a book outstanding in its genre
"A powerful and deeply affecting novel."
"Another First World War masterpiece…An ambitious, accomplished
and deeply moving contribution to Ireland's formidable corpus of fiction
about the Great War.
"Incredibly moving story…The writing is consistently stunning." –Irish Echo
"Phelan is a marvelous storyteller…Don’t miss out on a
great contemporary author."
–Irish Eyes (Paris)
"The Canal Bridge sings and weeps…Thrilling."
"A masterful story…Must be ranked among the more successful of the
novels dealing with the First World War."
"Tom Phelan’s The Canal Bridge is the best novel of love in the time of war since Cold Mountain. It is an old-fashioned story in the very best sense: dramatic, passionate, unpredictable, gorgeously written, heartbreakingly true, and ultimately ennobling. This is truly a great book. I loved every page."
–Howard Frank Mosher, author of Walking to Gatlinburg
"There is no false bravado in Phelan’s riveting, unsparing account, no sentimentality, no hollow heroes, no hyper-patriotic blather. Phelan’s characters live and breathe and bleed. Phelan’s fiction is the real thing. The Canal Bridge is a classic."
–Peter Quinn, author of The Banished Children of Eve and Dry Bones
"Tom Phelan’s The Canal Bridge is a tour de force of writing, passionate, moving, and brilliant. Here is World War I in all its madness, and its terrible humanity."
–Kevin Baker, The Big Crowd