A likable, pragmatic protagonist comes of age in a comprehensively detailed, chaotic period in history.


From the The Cleanskin Short Stories series , Vol. 2

An adolescent boy develops a political ideology during Ireland’s tumultuous Troubles in Benacre’s (Shape, Shine and Shadow, 2016, etc.) latest short story collection.

After the opening tale, “God’s People,” a discussion between prospective British MI5 agents, narrator Neill McCormac dives into an account of his life in the very next story, “What’s in a Name?” Growing up near Newry, Ireland, in what he calls the “border heartland of the Provisional IRA,” he gets an early introduction to the violence of the Troubles. His mother believes she’s cursed, as each of her children has been born on the same day that a bomb or bullet devastated lives. In “Fence Posts & Milestones,” the 10-year-old McCormac’s rather brutal fight with some other boys is upstaged when word gets out that he uttered anti–IRA remarks at school. Puberty makes it mark, as well, as he recognizes his unmistakable attraction to Aunt Úna, his mom’s younger sister; in one of the book’s best stories, “Flat Shoes and High Hopes,” he and Úna have no choice but to discuss this infatuation when they’re alone at his brother’s wedding. In “...From Little Acorns Grow,” McCormac’s college dissertation on the procurement of Provisional Irish Republican Army weapons so impresses Capt. Eric Lawrence of the British Army’s HQ Northern Ireland that he offers him a job, only half-jokingly. This ultimately leads McCormac to MI5, where he chases Michael McCann, the suspected IRA terrorist and the protagonist of Benacre’s earlier work. The author’s depiction of the historical backdrop is profound, with McCormac moving from being a witness (perusing his mother’s scrapbook of bombings, for example) to being a part of the Security Service. At times, the historical events overshadow McCormac’s sometimes-conventional childhood; for example, he acknowledges that the loss of his virginity, which happened the same night as the 1996 IRA bombing of the London Docklands, was “fairly unremarkable.” That said, the book still makes a worthy counterpart to the first volume, which centers on McCann and his decidedly more savage youth. Like that collection, this one is truly a novel in disguise; an author’s note suggests reading the stories sequentially, and certain tales’ callbacks to earlier characters or incidents make this a necessity.

A likable, pragmatic protagonist comes of age in a comprehensively detailed, chaotic period in history.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5377-3059-2

Page Count: 420

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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