Ireland's War of Independence

During the War of Independence, friends Johnny, Stella and Alice grapple with conflicting loyalties – then matters come dramatically to a head on the night the Black and Tans set Balbriggan ablaze during a murderous night of vengeance.


Book Award: Age 10-13 - 2019

Literacy Association of Ireland - Short-listed

Paperback: €8.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Size:196x130 mm
ISBN: 9781847178930

E-Book (ePub): €5.99
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781847179920

In a time of war, how much would you risk to help a friend?

Young Johnny Dunne works hard at Balbriggan’s Mill Hotel, but still finds time to enjoy life with his friends, Alice and Stella. Though the three come from different backgrounds – Johnny had a harsh childhood in an orphanage, Alice is the daughter of the hotel owner and Stella the daughter of the Commanding Officer at the nearby RAF Gormanston. – they’re inseparable, living at the hotel and playing together in the town band.

But with the War of Independence raging, the friends face difficult decisions. Stella is pro-British, Johnny is pro-independence, and Alice is somewhere in between.

Then Johnny’s secret role, spying for the IRA on the Crown forces, puts him in danger.  And Stella and Alice have hard choices to make – choices that threaten their lives …

Brian Gallagher

BRIAN GALLAGHER was born in Dublin. He is a full-time writer whose plays and short stories have been produced in Ireland, Britain and Canada. He has worked extensively in radio and television, writing many dramas and documentaries.

Brian is the author of four adult novels, and his other books of historical fiction for young readers are One Good Turn and Friend or Foe – both set in Dublin in 1916; Stormclouds, which takes place in Northern Ireland during the turbulent summer of 1969; Secrets and Shadows, a spy novel that begins with the North Strand bombings during the Second World War; Taking Sides, about the Irish Civil War; Across the Divide, set during the 1913 Lockout, Arrivals, a time-slip novel set between modern and early-twentieth-century Ontario, and Pawns, set during Ireland’s War of Independence. Brian lives with his family in Dublin.

Find out more about Brian's books at

an Irish historical novel for pre-teens that is both riveting and insightful. Perfect for individual or classroom reading

Sunday Independent

an enjoyable read, while not downplaying the real dangers. Excellent for individual or classroom reading

Children’s Books Ireland Recommended Reading Guide 2017

a book with a fascinating political background, and Gallagher can be applauded for managing to convey what it must be like to live in a country with such an unstable future, as his characters seem to exist in a constant state of suspense … I definitely grew attached to the characters … this is a stellar choice for preteens with an interest in history, with the advantage of being set in the beautiful city of Dublin, during a fascinating conflict with consequences that were felt for generations

The Bookbag

Gallagher has written an historical novel for young people that is both riveting and insightful. The divisions in the social structure of early 1900's Ireland is perfectly echoed in the three young protagonists, while all three roles are portrayed with compassion and understanding, with their personalities perfectly fleshed out. The complex layers of the War of Independence, both socially and in terms of military action are revealed with a great deal of nuance and fore-thought, as each new episode brings further conflict and increasing violence. There is much here that, while historical, gives pause for thought in today's world events. Painted with great empathy, we are given a view of differing allegiances in conflict with questions of conscience; and an evocative look at the challenge of the fight for freedom. Personal, insightful and still fast-paced and very exciting. (Gallagher is one of the very best writers of historical fiction for young people. I'd also highly recommend his previous book, Arrivals.)

Fallen Star Stories

Gallagher engages his pre-teen readership in the historical events by personalising them through the unfolding fate of young fictional characters … a very successful means of sparking young people’s interest in the country’s past

Evening Echo

the divisions in society are perfectly mirrored in the three main characters

Irish Examiner

a timely look at Irish history by an experienced historical novelist for children

Irish Independent

this is an evocative account of the dilemmas faced by those who lived through the Irish War of Independence, showcasing how differing allegiances posed problems and challenges … Compellingly written, with great empathy and insight, this is an excellent read

Parents in Touch

Teaching Resources: free to view and download

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the book by Nicola Heaney

Also by Brian Gallagher:

Across the Divide
Taking Sides
Secrets and Shadows
Friend or Foe

Go to author page...

Similar Titles: