Friday, September 26, 2014

Book #6 “Adventures in Belfast” by Caroline Oceana Ryan

“You’ll know you’ve fully visited this amazing culture the moment you realize your life has changed in some remarkable way.” –Introduction

First of all, I should mention that I’m in love with Belfast, and I literally jumped for joy when this e-book popped up on my recommended list. For me, Belfast is not just a city, but a home. There are few places where I’ve ever really felt at home in the world, and although I was only there briefly, I felt at home in Belfast. The moment I stepped on the train to leave the city I swore to myself and to it that I'd be back.

That being said, I knew about “The Troubles” as they were called, the clashes between the Republican factions and the Unionist factions in the latter half of the 20th century that turned Belfast into a warzone, but not as in-depth as I would have liked. I took a class on ethnic conflict in my undergrad studies and we covered “The Troubles” briefly. But I did not know about them as thoroughly as I would have liked, and after going to Belfast and seeing this beautiful city and the murals commemorating the causes of both sides, I wanted a better picture of what had happened so relatively recently in that city.

That is where this book comes in. Caroline does an excellent job of shedding an unbiased light on both sides of the story, giving each side their chance to speak. There’s an amazing glossary of characters and organizations in the beginning of the book as well, to help the reader sort out the alphabet soup of splinter organizations that have broken off from the IRA and the UVF, as well as their political branches.

But more than that, what Caroline does is give us the reader a glimpse into what life in Northern Ireland is really like. We get to know the everyday people on the streets and those that work the farms outside of Belfast. We get to settle into an easy routine with Caroline, walking past City Hall and St. George’s Market. Through reading this book you’ll get a look at the scars left behind by “The Troubles” and get to know the people affected and the people who were in charge. This book contains many interviews with those involved on both sides, giving the reader a glimpse into the conflict we would not have had otherwise. Also, because this book takes place over several years, you get to see those scars heal and change. You get to revisit old friends and learn the craic, as well as seeing those friends grow and change, and most importantly, heal.

When I was in Belfast, I snapped a picture of saying written on a wall high above the street, it read: “A city that keeps one eye on the past is wise; a city that keeps two eyes on the past is blind.” That saying holds true, and the people that Caroline meets embody this, knowing they can never forget, but must move on. I think that’s a lesson we can all learn from, as well as taking away a renewed appreciation for the North.

So you have no excuse!

Thanks for reading! Until next time!

Up Next: “The Lost Girls” by Jennifer Baggett, Amanda Pressner, and Holly Corbett

ETA: Monday!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful review of the book, Calley! Much appreciated, and so glad that you are having a wonderful time in Ireland!