Posts Tagged ‘N Ireland’

Ghost Moth – Michele Forbes

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, N Ireland, Proofs on August 3rd, 2013 by admin – 1 Comment


Ghost Moth

Publisher – W&N


Ghost Moth

Publisher – Bellevue Literary Press












Amazon Vine

My Rating
4 stars – one to watch


Ghost Moth is the debut novel of Michele Forbes, an Irish actress who has already written several critically acclaimed short stories.

Overall, I  found this a very promising debut novel with flashes of brilliance and a poetic heart at its core.  It’s a deeply moving examination of the minutiae of everyday life parts of which echo the author’s own life experiences.  There are two narrative strands,  both set  in Belfast ; the first  in 1949 where a young woman, Katherine Fallon, finds her pleasant relationship with the sure and steady George Bedford is shaken when she meets the charismatic tailor, Thomas McKinley. In the 1969 story we know that she is married to George and has four children but is it a marriage of convenience?

I loved the 1969 story, with the unsettled nature of the Bedfords’ relationship mirroring the uncertainty of a city on the brink of civil war. George, in his role as a part-time fire fighter, sees the burgeoning violence first-hand.  Elsa, Katherine’s youngest daughter, faces increasing hostility from other local children as the Bedfordshire are Catholics in a predominantly Protestant neighbourhood. Forbes excels at portraying the ebb and flow of family life : a day trip to the seaside, a back garden fair to raise funds for the “black babies”, how to find your role within the family.  In the midst of  all this change Katherine seems stuck in the past, unable to move forward.

The 1949 Katherine is a totally different character, embarking on an affair despite being happily settled with George after a two year relationship. You know it will all end badly but it is difficult to feel sympathy for Katherine and nigh impossible to work out what motivates her to make these life choices besides  just drifting into them.

The Bedfords seem like an ordinary family but within their “ordinariness” you will find extraordinary ripples making you think of the nature of love – between mother and child, between husband and wife, between siblings.  Does love have to be showy and passionate to survive the passing years?  Forbes makes you see under the surface, to what really matters.

I really enjoyed this condidently written debut novel and found some sections extremely moving especially towards the end of the story.   Some parts, especially in the early stages,  seemed overwritten and this had a jarring effect on the flow of the novel but fortunately this was the exception rather than the rule.  I am looking forward to reading more from this very talented author.

PS Which cover do you prefer?  Am I alone in having an extreme dislike of the one on the right??


Michelle Forbes

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The Mill for Grinding Old People Young – Glenn Patterson

Posted in Historical Fiction on September 20th, 2012 by admin – 8 Comments


  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (15 Mar 2012)
  • Source - Library
  • My Rating – 5 stars
  • I wouldn’t have even heard about this novel if it hadn’t been our latest choice for our library reading group, so many thanks to Liz, our lovely librarian, for seeking out this gem of a story.  I had heard of  Glenn Patterson, a local author, who has written many novels set during and considering the impact of the Troubles in Northern Ireland but for some strange reason I hadn’t read any of these, preferring perhaps not to read about our painful past and instead reading about conflict in other distant countries.  Time to rectify that now!

    The Mill for Grinding Old People Young is narrated by Belfast man, Gilbert Rice, in 1897.  At the age of 85, his health is failing yet he has vivid memories of his youth in a rapidly changing city.  In the 1830s the city’s population was expanding rapidly in response to industrialisation and the influx of a vast new workforce.  Gilbert has had a relatively sheltered childhood, brought up by a strict but kindly grandfather, but he enters a new exciting world when he starts work at the Ballast Office at the Port of Belfast.  There is the constant fear of a cholera epidemic which leads to a wariness of foreigners.  There is a wide chasm between the landed gentry and the ordinary working folk although both like to indulge in a bit of gambling at cock-fights!  Gilbert makes his way through an ever changing world, making mistakes en route, growing up in a city which is also finding its feet.

    Written in an easy, accessible style, this intriguing novel opens a window on the past of a city which has constantly had to reinvent itself.   From the opening pages, you have a sense of Belfast as a living, breathing organism and there’s a lot of affection and humour from Gilbert as he takes you on a tour of a city in its heyday.  The author wears the weight of his historical research lightly and you absorb the atmosphere, soaking up the ambiance whether it be supping a pint or having a quick nap in the storeroom of the Ballast Office. 

    Anyway, how could you resist such an intriguing title or such a stunning cover??  This is the first time I have been accosted by a doctor in a waiting room….to ask what I was reading and I was delighted to recommend it wholeheartedly.

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    Collusion – Stuart Neville

    Posted in Crime Thriller, N Ireland on September 20th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    Synopsis from

    Former paramilitary killer Gerry Fegan wanders New York City, hiding from a past he escaped at terrible cost. But he made a fatal mistake: he spared the life of Bull O’Kane, a ruthless man who will stop at nothing to get his revenge. Too many witnesses survived a bloody battle at his border farm, and now he wants them silenced, whether man, woman or child. O’Kane calls the Traveller, an assassin without pity or remorse, a killer of the purest kind.

    Back in Belfast, Detective Inspector Jack Lennon, father of one the witnesses, is caught up in a web of official secrets and lies as he tries to uncover the whereabouts of his daughter. The closer he gets to the truth about the events on O’Kane’s border farm, the more his superiors instruct him to back off.

    When Fegan realises he can’t shake off the trail of violence that has followed him across the world, he has no choice but to return to Belfast and confront his past. The Traveller awaits Fegan’s return, ready for the fight of his life.

    My husband, the Lovely Bry reviewed Stuart Neville’s debut novel The Twelve here last year.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to read it as it was lent out to friends who lent it to other friends etc etc.  However, this time I was determined not to miss out so as soon as Bry turned the last page I snatched the book and devoured it in just one day, taking time out only to see that the children were fed and watered – it was really unputdownable.

    I have been assured by Bry that Collusion is an even better read than The Twelve and that you can see how Neville has improved his writing, tightening up the narrative, using short chapters which crank up the tension to an almost unbearable level.  Gerry Fegan and the mysterious Traveller both have a slightly supernatural element about them – Gerry is still haunted by his turbulent past as a paramilitary killer but retains his aura of invincibility.  Is The Traveller his nemesis? 

    It’s not a clearcut case of good versus evil here as the baddies far outnumber the goodies and each character is fully fleshed, flaws and all.  You really don’t know who to trust from one minute to the next. DI Jack Lennon is a really engaging character.  He’d given up so much in order to join the police at a time when Catholic recruits were few and far between and now his once respected superiors seem enmeshed in the filthy mess of collusion – loyalists and republicans even helping each other if there’s money to be made.  

    In short, a thrilling, taut read – not for those of a nervous disposition or those who object to “strong” language.  I’m really looking forward to Stolen Souls, another thriller featuring Jack Lennon, somehow I don’t think he’s going to get the  quiet life he’d hoped for!

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    Guest Review from Lovely Bryan – The Twelve by Stuart Neville

    Posted in Contemporary Fiction on June 27th, 2010 by admin – 9 Comments










    The Twelve  - Guest review by Lovely Treez’s OH, Lovely Bryan


    Synopsis from –

    “Former paramilitary killer Gerry Fegan is haunted by his victims, twelve souls who shadow his every waking day and scream through every drunken night. Just as he reaches the edge of sanity they reveal their desire: vengeance on those who engineered their deaths. From the greedy politicians to the corrupt security forces, the street thugs to the complacent bystanders who let it happen, all must pay the price.

    When Fegan’s vendetta threatens to derail Northern Ireland’s peace process and destabilise its fledgling government, old comrades and enemies alike want him gone. David Campbell, a double agent lost between the forces of law and terror, takes the job. But he has his own reasons for eliminating Fegan; the secrets of a dirty war
    should stay buried, even if its ghosts do not. Set against the backdrop of a post-conflict Northern Ireland struggling with its past, THE TWELVE takes the reader from the back streets of Belfast, where violence and politics go hand-in-hand, to the country’s darkest heart.”


    Before I met the Lovely Treez, I was a real man, I didn’t read books.  Now, no doubt due to LT’s example, I do read and feel none the less manly for it!  Although my annual literary consumption probably only matches the erudite Lovely Lady’s weekly book diet.

     As a 44 year old Belfastian, I feel generationally close to the main character, Gerry Fegan.  I lived through and well remember many of the events and atrocities mentioned.  I know the locations and can identify the politicians, community leaders and hoods upon which some of the fictional characters are drawn.  I’m proud that the author, Stuart Neville is a local man whose novel is the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  For these reasons, my experience of the book is skewed and unavoidably different from that of, say a New Yorker or a Londoner or even someone from the other tribe here in Northern Ireland but I believe this book can work for everyone interested in the genre.

    The novel is written from Gerry Fegan’s perspective and the reader’s intimacy with this cold blooded killer occasionally brings an uncomfortable sympathy but this is part of the appeal, it takes you out of your comfort zone, you’re not in South Belfast any more!  That this book and others are written about Northern Ireland’s “troubles” is very positive and shows that times have changed and we have moved on.

    It’s a great read, I enjoyed it immensely and heartily recommend it to both Protestants  and Catholics ;-).  Well done Stuart!  Better than The 11, not as good as The 13!

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