Growing up Catholic in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Although he was born in England, Broderick (Orangutan, 2009) spent his formative years in Northern Ireland, where battles between the British Army and the Irish Republican Army echoed the more general strife of Protestant loyalists and anti-crown Catholics. Broderick’s father was a hardworking Irishman who kept the family in fairly comfortable lower-middle-class circumstances, while his mother was a stereotypically strict Catholic matriarch. Although Broderick intersperses snippets of nightly newscasts detailing the latest atrocities committed in the name of either Protestantism or Catholicism, this ongoing war rarely touched his immediate family directly, apart from the occasional harassment by British soldiers at border checkpoints. Most of the memoir offers more typical material about a kid discovering drink, sex and drugs in the way most adolescents do. Nevertheless, Broderick developed a deep hatred for the British and Protestant loyalists, falling into the cycle of blind prejudice that had been getting people of both faiths senselessly killed for years. Broderick’s anti-English fervor and Irish patriotism are believable enough at first. But when he casually describes turning 18 and heading to London to work in construction, it's hard to understand why he didn't see living and working in England as compromising his principles. Once in London, he obtained a fake birth certificate and signed up for the dole; the highlight of his stay was hitting on the girlfriend of a dangerous gang bigwig and getting roughed up, which sent him back to Ireland fearing for his life. Broderick’s rite-of-passage rebelliousness hardly inspires the sympathy evoked by Brendan Behan's prison autobiography, Borstal Boy (1958) or Frank McCourt's account of his hard-knock life, Angela’s Ashes (1996).
Surprisingly dreary, given the turbulent backdrop, Orangutan, Broderick's scathing memoir of alcoholism, had more drama.