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Summary

In 1913, before there is a rumor of war in Europe, Matthias Wrenn and Con Hatchel, lifelong friends from Ballyrannel in the Irish midlands, decide to see the world at the expense of the king of England and join the British army. A year later, while en route to India, their troop ship is recalled and they soon find themselves in the European slaughterhouse that was World War I. As stretcher bearers, the two men witness all too closely the horrors of the battlefield and the trenches, the savagery, and the unconscionable waste of human life on fields made liquid by “the blood and guts of boy soldiers” at the Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele. Meanwhile, back home in Ireland, Con’s sister and Matthias’s lover, Kitty Hatchel, yearns for their safe return and reminds them of their carefree childhood on the banks of the local canal, as well as their hopes for the future.

Brilliantly and movingly narrated by a chorus of voices from the community — Matt, Con, Kitty, and others — The Canal Bridge tells the story of how the young men take Ballyrannel to war with them, and how the war comes back home when hostilities end in Europe. The Ireland the friends left in 1913 no longer exists, for the political landscape has been transformed by the Rising against the British in 1916. It is now a land riven with sectarian tensions and bloodshed from which there is no escape.

©2005, 2014 Glanvil Enterprises, Ltd. (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Canal Bridge

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    4 out of 5 stars

A sad but compelling read.

Different style of writing, about two iris boys who join the British army and get involved in the First World War. The story is told from the personal perspective of several individuals in the story. The description of warfare in the trenches is realistic and compelling. The story describes life for the two boys before and after the war. It is sad and gave me a deeper perspective on WW1.

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Wonderfull!

One of the best books I've ever read. Beautifully written and narrated. This will stay with me for a long time.

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A wonderfully crafted novel

What a fantastic novel. I am amazed I’ve never heard of it he author before I listened to ‘lies the mushroom pickers told’. I loved this story the characters are so well developed the story told in such a clever way. It’s sometimes like listening to poetry. Feel like I need to read the book to do it justice.

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Powerful!

This is the the most powerful book I have ever read! It hit me like a tonne of bricks and I haven’t been able to start another book 3 weeks after finishing it. Having read some of Tom Phelan’s other books, I was expecting a delightful romp round rural Ireland. Instead I was dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the Battle of the Somme. Some of the descriptions are not for the faint hearted but I was so invested in the characters that I absorbed every word. Tom has a way of “slipping in” major incidents which hit you more than if there had been a big build up to them. The narrator seems to alter some of the accents but it didn’t detract from the listen. Incredible book!

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It will stay with you

if you are feeling down please don't read this book because it will rip your heart out. I could not stop listening, it is compulsive listening. The narrative and the writing are perfect for each other. I am writing this several days after finishing the book and it is still vivid in my mind, I find myself just looking into space just replaying the story and thinking oh my god what they went through in the first world war. I don't think that I will ever just walk past a memorial again without thinking about this book. It will never leave you

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Great story of ww1

Interesting historically, great story and so well narrated, I’m a real fan of this writer, sparse and beautiful prose

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superb story and characters

A very moving tale of love, hope, tyranny and war with superb and believable characters

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Stunning, captivating, pure genius.

This is a work of pure genius. Shocking, irreverent, fearless, heartbreakingly good, unsurpassably narrated. Thank you so much, Tom Phelan and Paul Nugent, for this incredible gift.

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Brilliant!

This was an incredible story which I enjoyed immensely. Thank you Tom Phelan for writing such an evocative enlightening and moving piece. The narration was fantastic too

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excellent book

I have read two of Tom Phelan's books and find his descriptions of lovemaking some of the most natural and beautiful that I have ever read. That aside, his books are informative without being self righteous preaching and the simple storylines make them totally believable. I will definitely be looking for other titles by this talented author.

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  • Kathy
  • 25-05-16

Beautiful, disturbing and unforgettable

I read Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told with my husband on a previous car trip. We laughed and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I took a chance on this book. Phelan is a master storyteller, right up there with Frank Delaney and a few others. The story is told from multiple viewpoints and goes back and forth in time. Yet this ultimately works. Each character is finely crafted and becomes someone you love or loathe.

There is a realism about the war which is upsetting and sometimes nauseating. Yet it is not done for sensationalism. Phelan tells of the horror of war for the young men and women who lived and died because of the stupid decisions of their superiors. It is painful, and at times I wanted to stop listening. I could not do that; the book was so riveting. If you have trouble keeping many characters straight you may not like this book, but we both loved it. I can't get it out of my mind, nor can my husband. We both agreed that there is an innocence that the main characters maintain throughout in spite of what they have experienced. We got a different take on the Irish uprising of 1916 from this book. Compared to the horror of France and Belgium, that was a lark in the park.

Paul Nugent was such a phenomenal narrator that I'm looking for books he has narrated. He differentiated between characters, doing a terrified Kitty at 17, applying for a job at the big frarm, to an officious general in the British army. There were Cockney, Welsh, Northern and midland Irish and more among the accents he did effortlessly. I am in awe of this guy! He can read to me any time! :)

Can you give a narrator more than five stars?

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  • Leonard
  • 18-04-14

A Really Enjoyable Story

I noticed the novel in a bookstore and was happy to see it featured on Audible and happier still once I started listening. Mr Phelan is a wonderful storyteller. One could almost picture themself walking along the canal in Ballyrannel. The character development is solid. Paul Nugent's narration is fantastic.

Hope that some of Tom Phelan's other books make their way to Audible.

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  • Martha
  • 04-04-14

A BRILLIANT WAR STORY, A BRILLIANT LOVE STORY

If you could sum up The Canal Bridge in three words, what would they be?

A GREAT BOOK

What did you like best about this story?

This beautifully written novel presented a part of Irish history that until recent years seemed to have been greatly de-emphasized...the fact that hundreds of thousands of Irish men fought in WWI, serving in the British army and fighting the Germans. Yet while they were in the trenches, a much smaller number of men rebelled against the Brits in Dublin and their proclamation claimed they were supported by "gallant allies"--the Germans.

Which character – as performed by Paul Nugent – was your favorite?

all of them

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Cry! and laugh!

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  • N. Arena
  • 22-04-15

Enjoyable audiobook

Enjoyable and interesting story told from a unique perspective of WWI. At times, the use of multiple points of view for narration was distracting, particularly with a few chapters that seemed unrelated to what was presently occurring within the plot. The pieces also seemed to jump around in time rather than following exact chronology.

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  • ginger
  • 01-06-22

Absolutely Beautiful

This is the third book by Mr. Phelan I've read and it is just as beautiful as I'd hoped it was, just like the others. The emotional turmoil of each character is painted so beautifully within Mr. Phelan's words and brought to life so beautifully by Mr. Nugent. It's a book I had hoped would never end.

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  • Shadia
  • 02-04-19

Paul Nugent is a genius

I don’t even know where to begin. Tom Phelan’s writing is so gorgeous and transportative, it is only matched by Paul Nugent’s artistry in being so many characters at once. I wished it would never end. Even with how gut wrenching the story is. I am excited to read everything else Tom has on offer and hoping to listen to anything Paul has read.

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  • Christine A Saunders
  • 30-10-18

Heart wrenching story. Outstanding performance.

The narrative lifts you away from the present and transports you back 100 years. Every word, performed so beautifully by Paul Nugent, awakens every sense and emotion. The dinner was late, the laundry forgotten, my husband huffy and brooding, and the kids left to text and surf to their heart's content while I shamelessly immersed myself in The Canal Bridge uninterrupted (not for want of trying) from first word to last. What more can I say?