Troubling times told by those who witnessed them

We all know about the troubles, or think we do. Everyone the world over has some sort of opinion of how the troubles started or who was at fault. As someone who was born in the midst of the chaos, this particular reviewer, when asked about the troubles always explains it as different versions of the same truth. That is to say that each person who lived through the troubles will have experienced the events from a certain point of view and that particular point of view isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s simply the version that that particular person has come to think of as the truth given their own unique set of circumstances. That is not to say that everyone doesn’t come with their own particular set of prejudices but it is up to the interested and impartial observer to listen to each point of view and make up their own mind. Among those observers, who often put themselves in harm’s way in order that you the public were informed of events, were the journalists and reporters who reported on the numerous tragic events so for this to happen. Reporting the Troubles: Journalists tell their stories of the Northern Ireland conflict, does exactly what it says on the tin so to speak. With participation of well known international journalists such as Kate Adie, Martin Bell, Robert Fisk along with lesser known hacks who lived among the people about whom they reported. Each one has their own perspective, their own memories of a particular person or incident which occured during the over thirty years of violence. Each one is heartfelt and sincere and tries to bring attention to some of the many victims of the troubles, it also does what every journalist is often told not to do – it makes things personal. The strength of the book is as has been mentioned already, in the wide variety of reporters who have been asked to contribute. Perhaps where the book falls down is in a way in which the reporters themselves would critique their own work, it highlights one particular incident over another. Another point worth making is that once you read about an incident you have yet to come across you are fairly certain that the next is linked in some way, there isn’t enough of a variety. With that said it is indeed hard to remember every terrible incident, to pick one victim over another. What the book does do well is explore the human, private side of the reporters involved. It allows them to open up to an audience like perhaps not permitted at the time about the events and personalities involved. As someone who grew up during the troubles it is perhaps difficult to look at these events totally objectively, however at times the perspective of the intervening years and unawareness of some events certainly helps. A book best for those with a distant perspective on events perhaps

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Japanese Folklore goes as gaeilge

A generous crowd gathered at the Holywell Trust building in Derry for the launch of a book of Japanese folklore which has been published in bilingual form with stories collected by an Irish poet published in both English and Irish.

Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece in 1850 to an Irish father and Greek mother. In correspondence with non other than W.B. Yeats Hearn said, “I had a Connaught nurse who told me fairytales and ghost stories and so ought to love Irish things and do”. In fact a nanny was not Hearn’s only claim to Ireland as his father was from Co. Offaly so to all intents and purposes he was Irish.

Hearn it would seem is well regarded in Japan, however it is only relatively recently that he has begun to be appreciated in Ireland, with a Japanese garden having been opened in Tramore, Co.Waterford in 2015. The book itself is a beautifully designed and illustrated paperback with text in both English and Irish. The only glaring omission being that an opportunity was missed to include some Japanese. For further details on how to purchase the book contact the Holywell Trust or The North West Japanese Cultural Group in Derry.

Review of Holding by Graham Norton

We probably all know Graham Norton for his quirky, sharp-witted, fast-paced chat show, some of us may even remember him for his role in Father Ted as the erratic and chaotic Fr. Noel Furthlong. To his list of many talents and achievements Norton has also added novelist with his debut novel Holding

Holding is set in Duneen where we find P J Collins, a hapless, overweight Garda who has never had much ambition and who people have never expected much from until a body is unearthed on a building site. It turns out that the body isn’t the only thing from the past that has been dug up as this one single event has a domino effect and uncovers the secrets of many of the villages residents.

For a debut novel, Norton’s characterisation is vivid and imaginative. Given his upbringing he has managed to capture the essence of small town rural Co. Cork masterfully and created characters which spring to life off the page and which we are all familiar with, be it the local Garda in the sleepy village with nothing much to do, of the alcoholic whose a shadow of their former self, of the housekeeper who makes a house a home with her cooking and fuss and gossip.

If you are planning on a late holiday in August, you would do worse than taking this gripping novel and welcome the residents of Duneen into your life