The setting is Belfast in the 1970s. In a city in which any storefront might unexpectedly explode, Marius Moonston, age 16, is out shopping. It's Saturday, and the streets are filled with danger and excitement--especially for Marius, whose pocket is burning with the money he has pilfered from his sister.Marius has a mission (he knows just he wants to spend that money on),The setting is Belfast in the 1970s. In a city in which any storefront might unexpectedly explode, Marius Moonston, age 16, is out shopping. It's Saturday, and the streets are filled with danger and excitement--especially for Marius, whose pocket is burning with the money he has pilfered from his sister.Marius has a mission (he knows just he wants to spend that money on), and a conscience steeped in the dichotomies of the Evangelical church. Ricocheting through the story is the nature of deceit and truth, commerce, disobedience and sin. The consequences of a petty crime are enormous--cathartic and destructive and defining.McGrady uses language of a distinctly Irish elasticity, and the explosive hilarity of a teenage boy propels the novel to crystalline moments of observation, and shattering self-knowledge."Clever and honest, playful but disturbing--The Backslider is a demanding and hugely enjoyable novel." —Roddy Doyle"Seàn McGrady has brought loquacious delight to the loss of innocence. Every sentence in The Backslider savors “the peculiar and sometimes painful world of decisions,” as that world orbits through the tumultuous spirit of the 16-year-old Marius. The boy has a stolen bill in his pocket and he’s on the verge of more serious trouble, perhaps even murder, and meanwhile the peregrinations of the kid’s meditations pop and maunder wondrously, often hilariously. Now he’s swept up in some anarchic urge, and now he’s carried away by the no-account types on a city corner. A troubled corner, that would be, in a dangerous city. Yes, now for McGrady’s greatest trick: he does it in early-‘70s Belfast, church-riven and bullet-riddled. It’s as if Flann O’Brien took his blarney to Stalingrad — and there held the armies spellbound." —John Domini, author of Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery"With echoes of the distinctive humour and philosophical meditations inherited from a rich Irish literary legacy, The Backslider is an accomplished and deeply affecting novel, McGrady's observations on the nature of adolescence are powerful and provocative." —Ian Holding, author of Unfeeling: A Novel and Of Beasts and Beings"I read The Backslider in one fell swoop, with increasing admiration and delight. An absolute stunning coming of age novel, set in The Troubles and you can literally smell the cordite and the litany of The Evangelical Church. Beautifully wrought with a skill that seems to be more in line with an assured half dozen books under your belt. Moving and drenched in the appalling consequences of an apparently petty act. Catcher in the Northern Province, with a compassion that echoes long after the book is read, and an assurance that here is a novel to return to over and wonderfully over." —Ken Bruen, author of The Guards and The White TrilogySean McGrady was raised in Belfast, immersed in the religious and political ideas that defined the Irish Troubles. A former university lecturer in philosophy, he lives in York, England....
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The Backslider Reviews
A closely observed, witty and intricate novel that goes deep into the mind of the child, and the adult, to understand the underlying justifications and reasons for... not a crime... but an action that has a moral dimension. What McGrady shows so convincingly is that morality is connected with the world around us, and not a thing to be seen with brutality. He does so with assurance and brilliance, and, in the process, also treats us to a wealth of comic gifts.
The Backslider by Seán McGradyThe Backslider is a wonderfully written piece of literature. One wouldn't immediately associate humour, beautifully descriptive prose and a sixteen year old protagonist, replete with an inquiring mind and a rebellious religious bent, as coming out of the worst period of the Northern Ireland 'troubles', but that's exactly what Seán McGrady has given us with The Backslider. The character of Marius Moonston is a delight. Against the backdrop of the troubles and the ever present, stifling religious attitudes of his community, he tries to live as normal a life as possible. However, one day he steals a five pound note from his sister's purse and takes to the streets of Belfast to spend his ill gotten gains, taking his friend Linus along for the ride. Linus, who he feels far superior to yet has to trick into believing he's found the money on the ground as they're walking along; in the process displaying his own his moral inferiority to that of his friend. McGrady gives us deep insight into the character of Marius through his use of internal dialogue. It works very well indeed. We see not only the 'outside' Marius, through his actions and external speech. We also see what he's really thinking; often distasteful and downright cruel, especially where his friend is concerned. There is also a great deal of humour in the story, especially when McGrady weaves his literary magic while introducing us to the numerous characters that populate Marius's life and community. There are some truly hilarious moments in this book; often subtle but hilarious nonetheless. I won't go on and say any more about the actual story or where Marius's initial petty crime leads, as I would wish the reader to enjoy the discovery and sheer enjoyment of this story. I derived great pleasure from reading this book. It is one I will read again, more slowly, so I can linger over the beautiful prose. I will say, this book is a great read and Seán McGrady is a master storyteller. I have no doubt he will have much success on the back of this, his debut novel. I look forward to reading his forthcoming book, and I wish him well. It appears we have a new Irish talent in the literary world.
Will return to review when I come up for air.INCREDIBLE! YOU HAVE NEVER READ THIS BEFORE! I THINK YOU WANT TO READ THIS...
Hooked already. A fine feast in a fast food age.
'The Backslider' is a staggering and absorbing novel that transports us in Belfast in the 1970's, during the terrible period of 'The Troubles'.However, it is not only a book 'about 'The Troubles'. It is also about Marius Mooston, a 16 year-old boy. We follow him and his best friend Linus through the restless city of Belfast through what will turn out to be a sort of 'initiatory journey'.Because 'The Backslider' is a book about the going out of adolescence and the passage in the world of adulthood. Which is all the more complicated when it happens in a city which is in a 'state of war'. The loss of innocence is abrupt and striking. How then, situate one's self in a world of 'conflicts'? Marius has to grow up in this context of latent insecurity where landmarks such as the notions of Good and Evil are jostling in his mind.Marius has stolen a five pounds bill to his sister and intends to spend the money in town. This makes him a 'Backslider', someone who has gone away from the path of God. A sinner in the depth of him as the mother tells... But the boy is shared between the pleasure of owning this money, of feeling it in his pocket , enjoying it in an almost sensual way and the feeling of guilt weighting heavily upon his shoulders. This act having made a thief of him.Religion is omnipresent there and Marius is constantly 'fighting' between the will to follow his desires and the burden of his religious education. It is a fight about finding our true nature in a world of strongly anchored precepts. Religious precepts as well as educational precepts. And the road is long and complicated for the ones who wander from the straight and narrow. 'Resistence' and the assertion of the self is what is at stake there.Belfast. The city is in 'trouble' but it is also magnificently evoked through Marius' eyes. The 'Geography' of the novel is of a great importance. Belfast as it was then and what it meant to grow up as a teenager in this particular place at this particular time. The details are precise and sometimes strongly touching.The names of the streets, the atmosphere of the city, of some particular places, the shops...A clear and immutable memory in the author's mind. Not a mere restitution of reality yet, but rather memory 'revisited' through the filter of time, to become 'another' reality. What seems to me of a major importance in 'The Backslider' is also the use which is made of language...a 'particular' language. Particular in the sense it sometimes refers to some typically Irish expressions, but not only.I took an incredible pleasure in reading and re-reading some parts of it. Humour is often present in a subtle way that always join a certain reflection and the general 'style' of the book is relevant of the enormous talent of the author in this field. Seán McGrady, in a clever and powerful style, knows how to play splendidly with the words. Precious words. Sacred and Unsacred words. Always delivered in a wonderfully thoughtful way, making it an incredibly enjoyable book to read. Language. Weighted, questionned.Marius explores the human's mind and shows a deep curiosity for the language used by the people around him. Because each person he meets has a language of his/her own: Linus, the mother, the father. A particular language, defining each of them as an individual into this world.Sometimes not only words. It can be body language too. The universality of Language is considered here in all its various forms and particularities. What defines us: actions and words.As his perception of the world changes he realizes he is himself changing in his relation to the world. What makes the strength of the character and his originality is his affirmation of the self, the honesty of his teenager vision who has to deal with dilemnas that will sometime lead him on dangerous paths.It is about what constitutes us as human beings and makes us become who we are.Seán McGrady shows here an INCREDIBLE literary talent in his process of writing. His words transport us, amaze us, inform us and make us think further, through a skillful and intelligent handling of language. 'The Backslider' is a highly gorgeous and captivating novel, of an overwhelming humanity. A reading that leaves us undoubtly enriched.
I got to know the back story here. Afraid of who I might meet along the way, but I'm going anyway.