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Jan Carson

Autor(a) de The Fire Starters

10+ Works 169 Membros 11 Reviews

Obras de Jan Carson

The Fire Starters (2019) 60 cópias, 5 resenhas
The Raptures (2022) 49 cópias, 4 resenhas
Malcom Orange Disappears (2014) 17 cópias, 1 resenha
Children's Children (2016) 11 cópias
The Last Resort (2021) 9 cópias
Postcard Stories (2017) 6 cópias
Postcard Stories 2 (2020) 3 cópias, 1 resenha
Belfast Stories (2019) 1 exemplar(es)

Associated Works

The Black Dreams: Strange stories from Northern Ireland (2021) — Contribuinte — 6 cópias, 1 resenha


Conhecimento Comum

Locais de residência
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK



East Belfast, marching season, the present day (2019); two fathers concerned about their children. Ex-Loyalist Sammy suspects that his son is the masked social media influencer behind a wave of arson attacks. Trouble GP Jonathan’s daughter was begotten of a Siren who came and stayed in his bath and then disappeared back into the waves.

Most of the novel is gritty reality, so that you can almost smell the tarmac bubbling in the summer sunlight; but the parts with Jonathan and his daughter edge into magical realism with a particular Belfast idiom, where parents of strangely gifted children navigate both intrusive supernatural forces and the banal bureaucracy of health care and social security.

Often this sort of trope can feel bolted onto a conventional narrative, but Carson makes you feel that Belfast (East Belfast, very specifically) is the sort of traumatised place where reality starts to erode at the edges. It’s well-balanced, in the sense that a cyclist going at top speed over uneven terrain remains well balanced. Anyone expecting a standard urban grim novel will be surprised.
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nwhyte | outras 4 resenhas | Mar 24, 2024 |
Jan Carson’s The Raptures is set in a village near Belfast in the early 1990s. The Good Friday Agreement is still five years away, and hope of a solution to the sectarian conflict which plagues Northern Ireland is dim. Yet, the inhabitants of Ballylack have a more urgent problem on their minds. Several children from the same class start dying of a mysterious illness. The only student who seems to be avoiding the effects of the disease is Hannah, a girl from a born-again Christian background. Already an outsider because of the peculiar hang-ups of her parents, these inexplicable developments only serve to further mark her out, especially when she is visited by the ghosts of her dead classmates, who reveal that they are trapped in an alternative version of Ballylack. We live the extraordinary events of that summer through Hannah’s eyes – the novel opens and ends in the first person, but even those chapters written in the third person are written from her perspective.

Carson’s writing is marked by witty observation, and would be a joy to read, irrespective of the details of the story itself. As a bonus, she comes up with an enjoyably quirky plot; a coming-of-age narrative which mixes elements of comedy and tragedy, human drama and satire, mystery and the supernatural. It is not often that a book has you laughing out loud in one paragraph and shedding a tear in the next, but somehow Carson manages it repeatedly in this novel.

This notwithstanding, there is still something about The Raptures which I cannot get my head around. The speculative aspects of the novel invite an allegorical reading but I’m not sure I got the “message” (if there is, indeed, a specific one). The alternative Ballylack, with the ghosts rapidly ganging up into factions, could be a symbol of the divisions in the adult world. The send-up of Hannah’s happy-clappy Protestant parents (her father in particular) can be read as an indictment of religion, although not necessarily of belief – Grandpa, one of the most positively portrayed characters in the novel, also “prays in his own manner”.

At the end of the book, I was left with the impression that there were hidden layers which I was missing. Even though this might be the case, I still found The Raptures a remarkable reading experience.
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JosephCamilleri | outras 3 resenhas | Feb 21, 2023 |
I'd just borrowed Jan Carson's The Raptures from the library when Cathy at 746 Books broke the news that it had been shortlisted for the Irish Book of the Year (along with another splendid novel that I've read, The Colony by Audrey Magee, see my review). The Raptures was on my radar because I'd read the review by Kim at Reading Matters but now that I've read the book, I know why it was shortlisted...

Human beings are spectacularly good at brutal conflicts which go on for years and hate-filled years, and The Raptures shows the reader what it is like to be a child growing up in a climate where death seems random and inevitable. The novel traces three months in the life of Hannah, a child growing up in a Northen Ireland village in 1993 during the Troubles, when — inexplicably at first — the children in her class start to die. As the villagers grapple with the existential question Where will it end? How can they make it stop? they are confronting the normalisation of the Troubles with its reality.

Carson depicts the Othering than perpetuates the bigotry with black humour and biting satire. Ten-year-old Hannah is isolated from the other children in her class because of her evangelical faith. Her parents impose numerous strictures to prevent her being 'contaminated' by the values of the other people in the village. No dancing, no cinema, no magic or fairy tales and so on. Her exclusion, imposed partly by her parents and partly by the children who reject her oddness, has the effect of making her both naïve and perceptive. She is startled when her mother suggests meditating on the scriptures to ward off the illness, because she thinks that meditation is something that Muslims do.
They've done Muslims in RE class. It's all right to learn about wars and other bad things that happened in history. Forewarned is forearmed, Pastor Bill says. Hannah has no notion of what this means. It is not OK to dabble in other people's religions. Most Protestants would agree on this. It's why Lief's mum wasn't allowed to do her yoga demonstration at the last school fair. It's why Granny stopped watching Songs of Praise* after they had an ecumenical carol service, broadcast from a Roman Catholic chapel with a priest saying the prayers. (p.218)

When asked, Mum tells Hannah that she thinks it's Buddhists who meditate, but meditating on the scriptures is of God, not the Devil. Carson is economical, and not didactic, but she makes the point that this kind of bigotry, ingrained over generations, won't be shifted by some lessons in comparative religion.

To read the rest of my review please visit
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anzlitlovers | outras 3 resenhas | Oct 24, 2022 |
The story is set in the fictitious Protestant village of Ballylack one summer in the early nineties. Shortly after being told by a visiting speaker that they are "Northern Ireland's future", the eleven-year-olds in the top class of the local primary school all start falling sick with a mysterious and deadly illness. Hannah, who belongs to a particularly hardline charismatic pentecostalist family, seems to be the only child who isn't affected, and she disconcertingly finds herself nominated as contact-person to the world of the living by her dead classmates, who have somehow turned into rootless, destructive teenage ghosts.

Carson takes a hard look at the kind of small community she grew up in, wittily — and with a certain amount of affection — pinning down its absurdities and small-minded local concerns. It's very lively, clever writing, with a lot of close observation, and satisfyingly complicated levels of allegory and symbolism going on in the background of what is essentially a kind of murder-mystery plot.

But an utterly unsentimental magic-realist novel about the deaths of young children is never going to be an easy read. If The fire starters was challenging, this is the next level up. Carson makes it clear that the quaint local peculiarities of Northern Ireland life can't be separated from the very real harm that they do.
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1 vote
thorold | outras 3 resenhas | May 6, 2022 |



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