Eden Burning by Deidre Quiery
Publication date: 01 October 2015
Genre: Mystery & Thriller, General Fiction (Adult)
Approximate reading time*: 4 hours, 30 mins
Published by: Urbane Publications
Available at: Amazon.co.uk, Goodreads
(*Reading time is based on the time it took me to read it.)
Two families collide in a compelling tale of love, loyalty, and hate during the Troubles in Belfast, 1972.
Tom listened to Mrs McLaughlin’s brogues briskly clump across the marble floor towards the exit at the back of the Church. When the wooden door thumped closed, he looked around the Church to make sure that he was alone, then heaved himself to his feet, opened the Confessional, blessed himself, and in the darkness whispered to Father Anthony, “Father, get me a gun.”
Northern Ireland, 1972. On the Crumlin Road, Belfast, the violent sectarian Troubles have forced Tom Martin to take drastic measures to protect his family. Across the divide William McManus pursues his own particular bloody code, murdering for a cause. Yet both men have underestimated the power of love and an individual’s belief in right and wrong, a belief that will shake the lives of both families with a greater impact than any bomb blast. This is a compelling, challenging story of conflict between and within families—driven by religion, belief, loyalty, and love. In a world deeply riven by division, how can any individual transcend the seemingly inevitable violence of their very existence?
The story follows two families from opposite sides of their community, and seeks to explore their motivations, weaknesses, and humanity. It neatly shows how two families from the same community, so divided from each other, are linked in ways they couldn’t imagine.
What struck me most about this book, is that despite describing horrific events happening during a violent and turbulent moment in history, it is not judgemental, and doesn’t take sides. There is no sense that the author wants to tell you that one side’s cause was more righteous than the other’s; simply that the greatest tragedy is the actions that people on both sides were compelled to do in the name of making their voice and beliefs heard. This feels like exactly the right stance to take when describing a situation which was so complex, divisive, and emotive.
The writing is strong for most of the book, just becoming weaker towards the end where the strength seems to get lost to the description of the chaotic events that close the story.
The violence is described in some detail, and is not for the faint-hearted, but at no point did I feel that Quiery was indulging in making the reader squirm. On the contrary, the gruesome details are delivered factually, as though that’s just the way things were. There is a feeling of authenticity to the narration, which is what I think gives it power.
I wasn’t blown away, but I think that has more to do with my personal tastes than a reflection on the book. It has been a pleasant read, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a taste of life in Belfast in the early 1970s, written by an author who spent her childhood there.