Built around Ireland's struggle for independence from Britain after World War I—and the civil strife that ensued—this rich, stimulating novel spins its dolorous story through characters both real and imagined. The most compelling of the latter is Janice Nugent, a young Irish war widow who falls in love with Christopher Blake, a propagandist for Sinn Fein, the political movement for independence. Their furtive, tender but haunted affair symbolizes the bittersweet nature of the nationalists' Pyrrhic, bloody victory.
Flanagan, an American whose lauded previous novels The Year of the French and The Tenants of Time also dealt with the Irish struggle against British rule, completes his trilogy in masterly fashion. He evokes not only a historical period (Winston Churchill, then Great Britain's colonial secretary, appears in Hunt, as does the charismatic Irish revolutionary Michael Collins) but also a landscape—the misty countryside where rebels hide and the seemingly civilized Dublin, where life goes on amid sudden assassinations. Flanagan, makes you want to learn more about this broken nation and the troubles that continue to this day. (Dutton, $24.95)