CHILDREN OF ``THE TROUBLES'' by Laurel Holliday


Our Lives in the Crossfire of Northern Ireland
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 An occasionally powerful collection of young people's memories and impressions of Northern Ireland's violent civil strife. Holliday continues her Children of Conflict series (Children of the Holocaust and World War II, not reviewed) with this collection of brief essays, poems, and diary entries that people sent to her in response to her requests made through newspapers and schools. Because the 60 children, young adults, and adults (recalling events from the heights of ``the Troubles'' when they were children) were not responding to a specific questionnaire, the results are not always focused, detailed, or engaging. The author considers it a ``testament to these writers' courage . . . that not a single person in this anthology asked to be anonymous,'' but lack of anonymity (and the b&w photos of each contributor) prevents those who admit having committed sectarian crimes from discussing their acts in detail, and thus keeps much of the collection blanketed in banality. The book opens with a young Irishman's teenage memories of how he ``split a black soldier's head open'' during a riot, and then vomited after seeing a woman keeping watch over her dead son's corpse, ``his intestines hanging out like snails.'' While the book never again captures such drama or gore, there are passages about Catholic boys being savaged by British militia for the crime of carrying empty milk bottles and petrol (popular ingredients of handmade bombs) and the anger, fear, and grief felt by Protestants in the wake of IRA bombings. The anthology is at its best when offering first-hand accounts of hunger-striker Bobby Sands's funeral, expressing resentment over terrorists targeting even the milkman of a police officer, and conveying the courage of ``pigs in the middle,'' who socialize and sympathize with the other side. The bibliography and chronology add to the book's value as a teaching tool for high schoolers, but adults will find this collection lacking the more candid and unrehearsed eloquence of other first-person works on ``the Troubles.''

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-671-53736-9
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997