Characters: I thought the main protagonists of Kennedy and Vandeleur came across well-drawn and believable. Kennedy was particularly diligent and dutiful, as was to be expected in a high ranking army officer, but with compassion and understanding, probably rarely found in men of his class during those times. Vandeleur was far less understanding of the plight of the poor and typically scheming and self-serving. Georgina and Elizabeth gave the tale a more heart-warming touch but not enough to balance out the heart breaking descriptions of the starving and dying people of the land. I will admit to shedding the occasional tear when struggling to read those parts of the story.
Story/Plot: Very well done with sufficient preparation for the reader through Kennedy’s thoughts at the start of the book, leading into the real situation in depth as everything unfolds. I knew little of what happened during the Irish Famine of 1847 and found this story an education. Like much of my early schooling there was a lot of social history I was not taught, most of it stirring feelings of shame about the British ruling classes later on. Here is another story that needed to be told and the author is to be commended for tackling it so well.
Pace and Structure: It is well paced and encourages one to turn the page and discover what happens next, although I found Vandeleur’s occasional ‘thoughts’ too abrupt and surprising. In addition I’m still not sure I liked the use of bold type to distinguish Vandeleur’s narrative from Kennedy’s; although the triple asterisks helped.
Use of Language: There was no problem here and it was a pleasure to read a book from beginning to end without glaring typos and errors! The style of language suited the main protagonist’s class and education and was completely acceptable.
Narrative Voice: While I have to say that I much prefer novels written in the third person, and actively dislike books using the first person, it was appropriate here to some extent. For me, when it is necessary for the plot to appear from another character’s point of view, it presents problems of authenticity for both the reader and the author. For example in the sections of this book when Crofton Vandeleur is narrating, as I mentioned above, it felt clumsy and unlike the author’s previous writing. Perhaps it’s just me!
Dialogue: There was little dialogue but the speech felt natural. I’d have liked to hear some local vernacular from ‘mendicants’ and workers for example.
Settings: The settings and scenery were well described, without too much flowery language and metaphor, which would possibly have been inappropriate under the distressing circumstances. The court scenes needed a little more detail to establish the ambience better.
Themes: The general theme of Kennedy’s methods, personal misgivings and difficulties while attempting to carry out his duties under appalling circumstances, came across exceptionally well. His battles with the local officials and, indeed, with his superiors in London created the necessary sympathy from this reader; and the contrasts, and even the similarities, with contemporary social and political events are still a salutary lesson for us all.
‘Called to Account’ is a highly recommended book for all fans of significant historical fiction.