21 August 2010

'A Swift Pure Cry' Book Review

A quote in the front says 'A beautifully written and heartbreaking story...the story will be familiar to everyone in Ireland, but no less shocking for that.' That about sums it up for me. 
I won this in a competition. So I wasn't too interested in reading it. It sat on my bookshelf until last night. Then I realised I had been very wrong. This was Siobhan Dowd's début novel.

The blurb: Life has been hard for Shell since the death of her mam. Her dad has given up work and turned his back on reality, leaving Shell to care for her brother and sister. When she can, she spends time with her best friend Bridie and the charming, persuasive Declan, sharing cigarettes and irreverent jokes.
Shell is drawn to the kindness of Father Rose, a young priest, but soon finds herself the centre of an escalating scandal that rocks the small Irish community to its foundations.
This is a story from an age I didn't live in, didn't grow up in. This is a story from the time of my parents. But it is these stories that have shaped Ireland into what it is now. Sadly, the Ireland of today is not so dissimilar than it was in the story.
I wouldn't give too much away. This is a very daring début novel, and whatever I expected about it, it was wrong. It will make you cry with frustration and with sadness. But it will really really make you understand. This is the way Ireland was. If you are my generation, this was your parents, if you are older, it was your peers.
When MM first came to America, everyone thought Ireland was very dangerous, because they had only heard of The Troubles and cared no more beyond that. But there was and is much more to Ireland than The Troubles and beautiful landscapes. And this book shows you.
I really think everyone who reads it will get something from it. Most will get a new understanding, and appreciation. Some will get empathy, far too many will get empathy from this.
This is Ireland.
I give it:

Plot: *****
Characters: *****
Voice: *****
Dialogue: *****

Which means...five stars
Amazon listing here.

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