Thursday 14 April 2022

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy @KennedyLoulou @BloomsburyBooks #Trespasses @Ros_Ellis #BookReview


One by one, she undid each event, each decision, each choice.

If Davy had remembered to put on a coat.

If Seamie McGeown had not found himself alone on a dark street.

If Michael Agnew had not walked through the door of the pub on a quiet night in February in his white shirt.

There is nothing special about the day Cushla meets Michael, a married man from Belfast, in the pub owned by her family. But here, love is never far from violence, and this encounter will change both of their lives forever.

As people get up each morning and go to work, school, church or the pub, the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploded, another man beaten, killed or left for dead. In the class Cushla teaches, the vocabulary of seven-year-old children now includes phrases like 'petrol bomb' and 'rubber bullets'. And as she is forced to tread lines she never thought she would cross, tensions in the town are escalating, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.

Tender and shocking, Trespasses is an unforgettable debut of people trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Circus on 14 April 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is an extraordinary book, written by an author who is so very talented. Trespasses is Louise Kennedy's debut novel, she recently published a collection of short stories that was very popular. I hope very much that she continues to write full length novels if this one is anything to go by. 

Cushla Lavery is a primary school teacher. It is 1975 and Northern Ireland is ripped apart by The Troubles. Neighbours and colleagues look at each other, trying to judge where allegiances lie. Cushla's family have a pub, the customers are a mixed bunch and include British soldiers from the nearby barracks. 

Cushla cares deeply about the children that she teaches, going that extra mile to protect the vulnerable, especially from the cruel jibes made by the obnoxious headteacher and his ghoulish, vile sidekick, the local priest. Davy McGeown is one of the most vulnerable, but also one the smartest and brightest of her pupils. The priest despises him; his mother and father are a 'mixed marriage' and poor Davy suffers for that. When Davy's father is brutally attacked and left with life changing injuries, Cushla does everything she can to protect and care for him, whilst his older brother Tommy becomes more bitter and more distant. 

Michael Agnew is a Protestant barrister, known to Cushla's family and occasionally takes a whiskey in the family pub. Older than Cushla, and with an air of superiority and knowledge about him, Cushla is soon embroiled in a furtive  and passionate relationship. She finds herself examined and questioned by Michael's friends, whilst doing everything she can to ensure that her mother and brother Eamon do not discover what she's getting herself into.

The author begins and ends her story at the same place; an art gallery where the visitors are looking at ghost like sculpture called Everyman. After reading the ending, the poignancy of the beginning delivers a blow to the heart. 

Trespasses is a beautiful love story like no other that I've read. It is not flowers and romance by any means. Cushla and Michael's relationship often feels one-sided, yet their love develops slowly and surely, allowing them to be their own true selves, something that both of them have often found it hard to do. 

The backdrop of the troubled times in the North of Ireland is what really makes this story work so well, the intricacies of relationships, the danger, the fear and the feeling of general unease weaves its way through the narrative, adding such depth to a love story that feels so impossible at times. 

A story of powerlessness, and about people who are formed by where they live, or where they worship. It is a remarkable, tender story, written with an honestly and compassion that lingers long after turning the final page. Will most certainly be one of my top books of this year. 

LOUISE KENNEDY is the award-winning author of acclaimed short story collection The End of the World is a Cul de Sac.

Her stories have appeared in journals ranging from the Stinging Fly to Wasifiri and she has also written for the Guardian, Irish Times, BBC Radio 4 and RTE Radio 1.

Louise Kennedy was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Audible short Story Award in both 2019 and 2020.

Before starting her writing career, she spent nearly 30 years working as a chef.
She lives in Sligo. 

Twitter @KennedyLoulou

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