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The Insect Rosary Kindle Edition
About the Author
- ASIN : B00UEXR86W
- Publisher : Sandstone Press (18 June 2015)
- Language : English
- File size : 1002 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 320 pages
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from other countries
This is a book I found Amazon's star rating didn't quite work for. On the one hand, I think Armstrong has enormous potential. Her story is gripping, the shifts between 'now' and 'then' worked well, there's some interesting information about the IRA, and her depiction of the rural landscape of Northern Ireland is excellent. She's also very good on 'oddball' characters such as Donn and Nancy's son Hurley, and at expressing the adult Nancy and Bernadette's frustrations. So the book was very readable all the way through, with convincing dialogue, and a page-turning hint of suspense and menace.
On the other hand, I also found it a somewhat frustrating novel. Armstrong grew up partly in 1980s Northern Ireland herself, which I think leads her to assume that her readers know more about IRA activities than most of us will (I was a child in the UK in the 1980s, but found some of Armstrong's references, particularly to what the family were up to, a bit confusing). Were a lot of ordinary families heavily involved in IRA activities? What exactly had the IRA victim done? It never felt entirely clear to me, even at the end. I also found the portrayal of Catholics pretty one-sided. We are all aware of the horrors that have gone on in the Catholic Church - BUT there are also a large number of good and kind Catholics (including priests and nuns), so portraying every single Catholic character as an unpleasant, backward fanatic quickly got irritating. Agatha and Beth were little more than caricatures - the religious fanatic and the crazy anti-feminist Catholic mother respectively. I also felt that Armstrong hadn't quite worked out in her mind what Nancy's feelings as a 12-year-old were about Tommy - would most 12-year-olds really go off alone with a neighbour on the basis of having illegal driving lessons? Nancy seemed to be very calculatingly flirting with Tommy, which meant her later actions were somewhat baffling.
But for me, the greatest problems were that the children Nancy and Bernadette were not that interesting (children who spend all their time bating each other, moaning about being left out or declaring 'I'm bored!' quickly become very boring), and that there were too many loose ends left at the end of the story. Apart from the decision about the farm sale, I felt nothing had really been resolved. Nancy and Bernadette didn't ever really seem to find a solution to their problems, and the final revelation of their 'big secret' felt a tiny bit weak and unconvincing - particularly, I wasn't sure whether adults would have brought in a 12-year-old into their secret plotting; it was too risky. We never found out exactly what happened to Bernadette and her father on that ill-fated car journey. Nor did Armstrong tell the reader how, if Bernadette was so mentally fragile, she managed to qualify as a child psychologist, marry, hold down a job and have children. Nancy's relationship with Elian also never really evolved or changed throughout the book, Adrian and Bernie's daughters were hardly developed, and the girls' reaction to their mother's secret seemed oddly muted. I'd expected some sort of big climax at the end of the book, or at least a clear explanation of what happened - plus a bit more backstory about the girls' lives from their teens to their thirties - but got neither, and felt the book's final stages were somewhat of an anti-climax as a result.
Not my favourite book on the Northern Ireland troubles, then - I much preferred Deirdre Madden's 'One By One in the Darkness' - but I still think some of the vivid writing, Armstrong's love of the Irish landscape and some of the ideas contained in the book made it an interesting read. I'll definitely look out for this author's next novel.
I am from Northern Ireland. I grew up in a place not so far from where this was set. My father is English and we are a catholic family. I am only 4 years older than the eldest sister in the book. It's all very poignant to me and, apart from the lack of many characters who were crazy fun (which my childhood was filled with), I can see and feel my youth and the troubles bubbling away around me.