Book and Brew takeover

TripFiction’s Belfast books

In today’s Book and Brew takeover, Tina Hartas from TripFiction recommends a collection of Belfast books for my trip to the city tomorrow.

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The capital of Northern Ireland is now a vibrant city, largely recovered from the Troubles at the end of the 20th Century.

One way of gaining a sense of the history of the city and understanding what makes it what it is in the 21st Century is by engaging with stories from the past. So, here are TripFiction’s top reads for the Belfast of past and present.

The Good Son by Paul McVeigh

This is a funny and poignant read. The voice of the narrator – Mickey Donnelly – gives us an account of the summer before starting at secondary school in the Ardoyne, one of the most turbulent estates in Belfast of the 1980s.

It is also a chilling commentary on what living through those times in Belfast meant for some people. McVeigh’s brilliant use of dialect has you chuckling throughout, but you never lose the sense of danger. This would be a good book to read before visiting the city. It will, if nothing else, make you aware of the past that lies behind the present sophisticated surface of Belfast.

Siren by Annemarie Neary

This book is a disturbing and atmospheric thriller set in the present and travelling back to the time of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Sheen, needing to escape her past, finds herself in New York, making a new life and identity for herself. However, she is drawn back to Ireland to try to resolve the events of 20 years before that have shaped and changed her.

The very different, but both threatening in their own ways, atmospheres of fictional Lamb Island (which borrows some of its geography from Cape Clear, the most southerly island off the coast of west Cork) and Belfast are depicted well and provide an evocative setting for this engrossing read.

The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens

Set in present day Belfast, this is a collection of short stories that focus on upbeat life in the city.

Penny Stanley’s 17-year marriage to Daniel is falling apart and so is their shabby tea house on Mulberry Street. But its regular customers love the cosy atmosphere and luscious desserts. Penniless artist Brenda Brown sits in the cafe signing letters to Nicolas Cage. Will they ever be answered?

Sadie Smith finds refuge from her diet and her husband’s ultra-slim mistress in a slice of the cafe’s cherry cheesecake, and Clare Fitzgerald returns to the tea house after 20 years in New York.

But the tea house needs more than a coat of paint and as Penny takes action she discovers it is a magical place with secrets of its own.

The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

This is the first of four Sean Duffy books and it is set in Belfast in 1981. Bobby Sands has died on hunger strike, people are vigilant for explosives, the city is a tense and fractured place.

The police are after a homophobic serial killer, yet there is also the murder of a woman to contend with. Sean Duffy is the detective in charge, witty and largely sympathetic, the reader is brought in to engage with the investigations.

It is a stylish page-turner with an evocative setting.

What to pack?

Wow, TripFiction has provided four great choices for my trip. They each depict a different aspect of this fascinating city, and perfectly combine the history of the place and the opportunities for its future.

I’m in the city for two days so I can only take one with me. Come back to Book and Brew in October to find out what I took and what I thought.

Thanks for the tips TripFiction.

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