- Dublin Bay by John Patrick
Dublin Bay by John Patrick
James Brennan grew up in the poorest of Dublin’s tenements, turning adversity to advantage wherever he could. But he’s nearly a man now—with a good education at that—and wants more from life than what he can get as a day laborer, or following his father into the factory.
Otto Werner is the privileged son of a German diplomat stationed in Dublin. Otto is destined for great things in the new Europe sure to arise after Germany’s victory in the war. But he’s a lonely young man, living in Ireland with only his father for company, cut off from friends and family back home.
The two teens meet by chance, and each sees in the other a means to advance his own interests. But they quickly become friends, and then—surprisingly, dangerously—more. As the globe spirals deeper into chaos, the love between the young men deepens; but their world is not a hospitable place for forbidden love.
As war comes closer and closer to home, everything they believe—about themselves, about each other, about the world around them—will be shattered. Will their love for each other survive the pull toward destruction in a world gone mad?
I loved both James and Otto, in different ways.
To start with, James was very much an uncertain teenager, who didn't know which way to turn. He was questioning a lot of what he'd been raised to believe in, and struggling with an attraction he couldn't make sense of, that went against his beliefs. Struggling with his Catholic faith, a brother who was acting against his beliefs, and a new romance, it was no wonder he initially didn't want to question Ireland's neutrality in the war. The lack of Nazi/Reich propaganda that reached Ireland – because of the Emergency, a blockade against media related to the war – meant he had little reason to challenge their lack of participation in the war. And little reason to believe it would be as serious as it became, trusting Otto's insistence that the war would be overly quickly, once the countries surrendered to the Reich's power. Until Howard came along, with a wider view of war in general, he had no reason not to trust that Otto was right about the war being a minor, quick inconvenience.
“My whole country is complicit, James. We're the ones who are letting this happen, whether we're flying the planes of minding our business, looking the other way.”
From the characters, to the historical detail, to the progression from “wichsen time” to full-on romance, I loved every minute. There were multiple tearful moments throughout, from the Blitz, to James' experience in Belfast, and the last few pages. Everything about the journey of these two innocent, young boys growing into strong, independent men finding their way in the world, was engaging.