A grim, vivid debut about two children growing up in a society shaped by Northern Ireland’s bitter historyJournalist Neil Mackay’s 1980s-set debut has the ingredients of a classic childhood yarn: unfettered by concerned parents, 11-year-old May-Belle and Pearse meet, squabble, go on day trips to castles, tell each other tall tales and sit merrily in trees, lobbing apples at landowners. But Mackay’s background is in crime reporting, and his children do not come from a happy place. Pearse’s dad is a bullying, manipulative RUC officer; May-Belle’s more likable father is whipped off to prison at regular intervals, leaving his daughter in the hands of her careless mother. Soon, the pair have graduated from ripping the wings off bumblebees to tormenting larger prey. Yet for Mackay they are victims not villains, shaped by Northern Ireland’s bitter history, their own selfish parents and a society that is happy to avert its eyes from violence and misery. Sometimes the narrative voice can’t quite decide whether it’s in the kids’ heads or coming from a wiser place, but this grim, vivid work is a fine evocation of childhood and a passionate critique of a society that has lost its soul.FictionNorthern Irelandtheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books