In this grey, acrid novel of present-day Belfast, a young Catholic couple struggles against entrapment within the crossfires...



In this grey, acrid novel of present-day Belfast, a young Catholic couple struggles against entrapment within the crossfires of street warfare, their abrasive marriage all too vulnerable to the tensions around them. Rosaleen--from a harshly unloving family, cut off from a university education by pregnancy--winds up married to the baby's father: Dan Keenan, an ex-seminarian, now a medical student, the only child of an expediently assimilating, callous mother in a Protestant enclave. But, after the birth of their baby, Dan is baffled by Rosaleen's restlessness and apathy, only half-aware of the images that oppress her: her interminable future as wife and mother--ugly, subservient, poor; the smell of death on Belfast streets; her guilt-ridden sexual impulses. At first, in fact, Dan--seeing his medical-career as a future escape--feels safe, inconspicuous above the street-deaths, the torture-raids, the humiliations. Only later does he begin to feel just as trapped as Rosaleen. (""What an idiot he had been to think he could stay out of the IRA. . . They would come for him. He would tend their injured. He would find out too much. They would dispose of him."") Meanwhile, as Dan anticipates his fate, Rosaleen finds a victimized soulmate in British soldier Gerry Harris: driven by the power of their self-disgust and a need to probe for humanness, they have secret, violent sex. And, at the close, Dan and Rosaleen reveal to one another their betrayals, lies, and pain. First-novelist Anderson is best in etching in the Belfast streetscapes of horror and bitterness here: they're appropriately corrosive, dense with sour malevolence. Unfortunately, however, her relentless, monotonic, high-pitched narration--like a long scream--seems to blot out the humanity of the central characters. And the result is an intense yet only half-affecting portrait of marital anguish amid political mayhem--without the subtlety, warmth, and plainspoken power that Bernard MacLaverty brought to a similar Northern Ireland triangle in Cal (1983).

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1984


Page Count: -

Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984