This is the second time that I have read this exceptional novel; the first being back in 1990 when I was taking a course in Irish history and this was recommended as a ‘scene setter’.
Its evocation of 1970s Belfast is realistic and harrowing. There are no sides to be taken here. Billy and Harry are both shown with all their flaws. There are no winners either.
The squalor and desperation seeps out of every page. There is very little heroism. It is all about survival.
The situation in Northern Ireland is incredibly complex, even today after everyone has been promised something better. But in 1975 it was so much worse. This novel shows the determination shown by each deluded fighter of an unwinnable war.
This book is still relevant. It is a classic which deserves greater recognition.
In the 1980s it was made into a TV programme. Clannad’s haunting theme tune complemented it perfectly. The book, the DVD and the song are all well worth revisiting.