Burning Your Own
By Glenn Patterson
It is the summer of 1969 and ten-year-old Mal is finding it difficult to settle in to his new home, a housing estate on the outskirts of Belfast. He befriends a brash and rebellious teenager, Francy, who revels in his own status as an outsider and has set up camp in the local dump.
But this is no ordinary summer - the civil rights marches are beginning, and the simmering sectarian tensions of the Larkview estate are set to erupt, hastening Mal’s painful, shocking, loss of innocence.
“The smells of the food they had been eating hung heavily in the kitchen and dinette, so that they, too, seemed swollen and gorged. Mrs Martin opened the kitchen door like you would a notch on a belt. The television was on in the living room and, in exchange for the smell of fried cabbage, a newscaster’s voice drifted through, telling them about the trouble. Rioting had gone on throughout Sunday and into the early hours of that day; it had been worst around the Unity Flats complex, at the junction of Peter’s Hill and Upper Library Street, and in the Ardoyne area, north of the city. The newscaster had a pleasant, consoling sort of voice, even when talking about violence; polite too.”
Glenn Patterson, Burning Your Own, (Blackstaff Press, 2008) reproduced by permission of Blackstaff Press.
As in other novels, Patterson focuses on the moment before the Troubles erupted to remind us of a society that was more innocent and unknowing and to illustrate the damage done to simple eager hopes.
“Burning Your Own (1988) is in many respects a classic coming-of-age fiction: its protagonist Mal Martin is an ordinary ten-year-old boy grappling with the usual peer pressures and family expectations of adolescence. But Mal’s position, living in a Protestant housing estate on the edge of Belfast in the summer of 1969, just as the Troubles are about to erupt, means that all his individual crises are symbolic of a wider catastrophe. The rows between his parents prefigure a general community conflict, the alienation of his Catholic friend Francie signifies the escalation of sectarianism, and the building of the Twelfth of July bonfire becomes prophetic of the conflagration of Northern Ireland in the violent years ahead.”
Eve Patten, Contemporarywriters.com
“This is a very good novel and deserves your immediate attention.”
‘A novel of visionary power that sees through a child’s eyes a Belfast about to explode into sectarian strife.’
‘Patterson’s novel, needless to say, is neither afraid nor prejudiced, but courageously magnanimous.’
Chatto & Windus, The Blackstaff Press
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