Saturday, 9 April 2011

Onto Ireland

by Bernard MacLaverty

The story of a boy haunted by his participation in a crime which led to the murder of a protestant policeman, with him as the get away driver. To make matters worse, when he refuses further IRA work he is forced into hiding, leading him to the house of the policeman's wife (a catholic), whom he has grown to love.

Pretty unlikely, but a bloody good read, excluding the odd disgusting metaphor here and there.

From the outset, Cal is an outsider. A catholic on a protestant housing estate. An objector to some of the IRA stunts. A son who refuses to take on his father's role in a slaughterhouse. He fits nowhere, and therein lies his affinity with Marcella (policeman's wife) who is a stranger to the area, and who married a royalist law enforcer.

In the divisions between Cal and society, which accumulate throughout the novel, we then see the problems of Ireland through a single individual's eyes. No matter which road he takes, someone will be angry, being either a traitor or a terrorist and murderer. The crux of this is seen in the figure of Cal's father, a man who, after years of offending no one, except by refusing to leave his home in a protestant area, indeed who works in an all protestant slaughter house, is burned out of the home he built with his wife, leaving him a shell of a man, full of angst, fear and depression which further isolates him from the world.

The slaughter house is then a blatant symbol of the bloodshed that fills Irish politics and society of the time (and perhaps even now, after the murder last week of a CATHOLIC policeman, by whom no one knows, the book seems to be relevant once more...)  However the reader is left to ponder the ethics of Cal's predicament, and wondering what they would do in a similar position.

Or So Catrin Says

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