I love a book that spans generations and digs into the meat of family life, exposing the skeletons in the closet, revealing the good and the bad, laying down the consequences of decisions made long ago and how they affect the future. “The Liffey Flows On By” by Niki Phillips delivers a family drama that spans four generations of the Butlers, a wealthy Irish family in the early 1900s.
John and Joyce Butler have a daughter May and twin boys Tom and Milo who grow up happy and carefree on their large estate called Riverside near the Liffey River. The family has an unusually friendly relationship with their servants. Billie and Maggie Flynn are their estate manager and cook-housekeeper. Their children Noola and Paddy are near the same age as the twins and the children all become fast friends.
The book goes through the lives of the twins as they fight in the First World War and later Tom’s son Milo fights in the Second World War with his best friend Joe. Niki Phillips puts just the right amount of detail into the war scenes for a reader like me who only casually knows the history, but enjoys learning just enough to get the context of the time and place as it pertains to the novel.
The plot twists are really what makes this book sing with liveliness. They just keep coming and blowing my mind every few chapters. This tight knit family has more secrets than each individual character even realizes. My only criticism of the book is the stiff writing style. I couldn’t believe how calmly the characters took shocking news from each other over and over.
All in all, “The Liffey Flows On By” by Niki Phillips kept my attention and entertained me.
Phillips did extensive research as is noted in the back of the book in her Author’s Note and Acknowledgements. She delivered a book with dramatic content full of twists and turns just like the Liffey River that flows by Riverside.
The Liffey Flows On By
Troubador Publishing (2012)
Reviewed by April Sullivan for Reader Views (5/12)