Review of Books
A selection of recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.
The Outside Boy, memoirist Jeanine Cummins’ successful first venture into fiction, explores life in Ireland in 1959 for Christy, a young Traveller boy. Cummins has crafted her eleven-year-old narrator into a vibrant and complicated figure. She creates a unique voice for him: one that borrows from the Pavee Gypsy vernacular but is still accessible to readers and fitting for Christy’s startlingly astute observations. Cummins also does a fine job of vividly describing life on the road and blending precocious humor with the more serious aspects of Christy’s story. In one instance, he amends a “No Tinkers” sign meant to ward off his family so that it reads “No Thinkers.”
Christy is, in fact, a very deep thinker with a lot to figure out as hairline cracks start to form in the story of what he knows to be his life. As he makes brave steps to discover his past, the book fluctuates rapidly between moments of triumph and moments of grief, between the mundanely beautiful events of the end of childhood and the more extraordinary accomplishments of a small hero. Is Christy’s story the most realistic? No. But The Outside Boy is engrossing, full of wonder, and will be best enjoyed if readers can, as Cummins requests in her Author’s Note, suspend their disbelief for a little while.
– Sheila Langan
(384 p. / New American Library / $15.00)
Rosemary Herbert’s thriller Front Page Teaser, released October 1, follows the worlds of forensic investigation and tabloid newspapers as the investigative minds of these worlds collide in a rush to solve the case of missing Ellen Johansson. Front Page Teaser moves through the Boston Celtic music scene with Dr. Cormac Kinnaird, the forensic expert in the case and love interest for protagonist Liz Higgins.
The story begins with the usual thriller punch as Liz Higgins, a columnist for a gossip paper in Boston, finds herself with a young girl she had once worked with in a blood-spattered kitchen, the girl’s mother missing before police promptly escort the journalist away from the crime scene. The story then unfolds as the search for a body, a clue or any indication of the woman’s whereabouts leads Higgins out of Boston on a wild chase to fulfill her promise to the little girl to find her mother.
– Tara Dougherty
(253 p. / Down East Books /$14.95)
Maurice Fitzpatrick’s book The Boys of St. Columb’s offers a unique look into the history of St. Columb’s College, a Catholic grammar school in Derry, Northern Ireland, and the significance of the 1947 Education Act, which allowed access to free secondary education to all in Northern Ireland.
Fitzpatrick begins with a short biography of those past pupils interviewed, from Nobel Prize winners (St. Columb’s is one of the few schools that can claim two Nobel Laureates amongst its alumni – John Hume and Seamus Heaney), to musicians and social activists. While each of those interviewed has St. Columb’s in common, the interviews themselves take remarkable turns to different subjects. Author Seamus Deane details the state of Derry at the time of his education and his childhood there, while political activist Eamonn McCann carries the interview from subject to subject ranging from his earliest guerilla activity in Derry to his distaste for the way he was educated at St. Columb’s. Still others, such as poet Seamus Heaney, fondly remember certain teachers who led their paths into various successes.
The remarkable stories and careers of the men profiled, all rooted in the same school in the same period of time, are intertwined in unexpected and fascinating ways. Their school experiences, much like the Northern Irish world they lived in at the time, are filled with plurality and conflict. Fitzpatrick presents a compelling look into their world, their memories and history as his eight subjects remember it. Available for purchase at http://www.theliffeypress.com/
– Tara Dougherty
(228 p. / The Liffey Press / $25.00)
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