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de Louise Kennedy

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3492170,152 (3.97)87
Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a shattering debut novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and unsanctioned love. --
  1. 00
    Shuggie Bain de Douglas Stuart (shaunie)
    shaunie: Both feature alcoholic mothers and have similarly grim subject matter, but somehow manage to transcend that into something quite beautiful.

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*Shortlisted for The 2023 Women's Prize for Fiction*


“Booby trap. Incendiary device. Gelignite. Nitroglycerine. Petrol bomb. Rubber bullets. Saracen. Internment. The Special Powers Act. Vanguard. The vocabulary of a 7-year-old child now.”

Set in 1975 Northern Ireland, Trespasses by Louise Kennedy revolves around Twenty-four-year-old Catholic schoolteacher Cushla Lavery, a resident of a garrison town near Belfast. She teaches primary school while also taking up shifts in the family pub, run by her brother Eamonn. She lives with her mother Gina, who is grieving for her late husband drowning her sorrows in alcohol. One evening she meets Michael Agnew a Protestant barrister in the family pub. He approaches her to assist him and his friends to learn the Irish language, inviting her to an “Irish language night”. Initially uncomfortable among Michael’s elite friends, she finds herself drawn to Michael and his circle eventually falling in love with him, and embarking on an illicit affair despite the age difference and the fact that Michael is married.

Cushla is a caring teacher, genuinely concerned for the well-being of her students. One of her students, Davy McGeown, belongs to a mixed family (Catholic-Protestant), a fact that makes him and his family easy targets for harassment. A brutal attack on Davy’s father and Cushla’s support for the family and Davy puts her in a precarious position in the community. Her affair with Michael, who is known for his defense of IRA members, complicates her life further. What follows is a sequence of events that will jeopardize not only Cushla’s life but everything and everyone she holds dear.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy is an exceptionally well written, intense novel. This is not an easy read and you know from the very beginning that there can be no happy ending for these characters. The prose is direct and at times brutally honest while describing the societal distinctions, violence, divisiveness, bigotry and politics in Northern Ireland during the early years of the Troubles. Bombs, barricades, arrests and death seem to be common occurrences that people have incorporated as a part of daily life, which in itself is heartbreaking. The author captures the essence of ordinary people trying to live normal lives in volatile times beautifully. The characters are flawed, realistic and convincing. Your heart goes out to Davy and you are compelled to sympathize with Cushla. You may not agree with some of her decisions but you cannot help but feel for her as she struggles with her feelings for Michael and fear for her as she attempts to help Davy’s family. The prose is crisp and sparse, at times matter of fact but the tension, the fear, the heartbreak, and the pain is palpable in this tightly woven novel.

Overall this is a beautifully written novel that I would not hesitate to recommend. I paired my reading with the excellent audio narration by Bird Brennan which made for an immersive experience. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
I liked the setting to this book - Ireland during the worst of "The Troubles" however, it was not particularly an easy read due to so many Irish slang words and references. It took me a while to get into it and I did look up many references. Still, it was a good read. Cushla is a young unmarried woman who works as a preschool teacher during the day and at her brother's pub at night. The family is Catholic; however, they live in a small town outside of Belfash where Protestants also frequent the publ.

She meets Michael Agnew, a Protestant barrister who has defended some of the Republicans accused of violence. Although Michael is married, an affair begins keeping it a secret especially from her mother, Gina, and her brother Emmonn, who owns the bar. Cushia befriends a young boy, Davy, in her class whose mother is Protestant and father is Catholic causing him to be shunned by the other students. After Davy's father is severely attached, the oldest brother, Tommy, drops out of school and joins with the rebels.

After Michael is assassinated and Tommy is accused of the murder, Cushia's affair is revealed as a link between Tommy and Michael.

Although it took me a while to get into the book, it was a good read with a believable plot and characters. ( )
  maryreinert | Jul 23, 2023 |
This is set during the Irish troubles in a town near Belfast. Although it’s an area with both Protestants and Catholics, the lines are fiercely drawn and defended.

Cushla is twenty four, Catholic and a teacher at a Catholic primary school. One of the boys in her class has a Protestant mother and a Catholic father. This makes him the target of bullying at school both by the students and the rather deranged priest in charge of the school. The family is harassed and hated by their neighbors.

This comes to a head, when the father is brutally beaten and left for dead. Although he survives, he has extensive brain injuries.

Cushla empathizes with her young student. She starts driving him back and forth from school to avoid the constant bullying and does what she can to help with the father incapacitated.

After school hours, Cushla helps out in her family’s pub. It’s mostly run by her brother as her mother is incapacitated by alcohol. The clientele is mixed with both Protestants and Catholics. It is while working there that Cushla meets an older sophisticated married Protestant man. She is strongly attracted to him and his well-to-do lifestyle as he opens the doors for her for music and art. Cushla falls hard, although she knows that he is married and his friends make clear that Cushla is only the most recent of many such young women that Michael has wooed.

The attraction turns into an affair – one that given the political powder keg, you suspect will not end well.

This is not a comfortable read – there is steadily escalating tension and the threat of more violence. As a woman, there are times I want to shake both Cushla and Michael for disregarding entirely Michael’s marriage and the excuses Cushla makes up in her mind for Michael's actions.

“ God did this you know, he (Michael) said. Put you in front of me when I’ve nothing to offer you. “ p148

It’s a portrait of a world gone wrong with society at each other’s throats and marital conventions also thrown to the wind.

And yet, it is a plot that makes the book hard to put down.

Four and a half stars for the most poignant picture of the Irish troubles that I have read. ( )
  streamsong | Jun 23, 2023 |
This is a heartbreaking story of sectarian violence set in 1970s Ireland. Cushla, a young Catholic school teacher, lives with her mother who has sunk deeper into alcoholism since Cushla’s father died. Cushla’s brother, Eamonn, has taken over running the family pub and Cushla helps out during the evenings. When the father of one of her students is brutally attacked, Cushla lends as much support to Davy’s family as she can. A casual conversation with an older man in the pub leads to an affair, and Cushla finds herself walking on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant conflict: the man is not just older and married, but Protestant as well. Cushla and Michael manage to keep their affair a secret from both of their families, but their relationship develops against a backdrop of increasing tension leading to dramatic events which change the course of the characters’ lives.

I was completely caught up in this book from the very beginning. I hoped for better outcomes for Davy and his family, even as that seemed quite a long shot. Sometimes I cheered Cushla on; at other times I questioned her choices. The prologue and epilogue, both set in 2015, augment the main storyline and serve as an effective denouement, tying together a number of loose ends. Highly recommended. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jun 2, 2023 |
I’ve read a couple of excellent novels set in the midst of The Troubles in Northern Ireland (Milkman by Anna Burns and Cal by Bernard MacLaverty). Trespasses is another title to add to that list. It certainly deserves a place on literary awards lists.

Twenty-four-year-old Cushla Lavery lives with her alcoholic mother in a small “mixed” town near Belfast. During the day, she teaches in a Catholic primary school; in the evening, she helps her brother in the family pub. There she meets Michael Agnew, a barrister who, though Protestant, defends young Catholic men who have been arrested. Despite his being older and married, the immediate attraction between them leads to an affair. At the same time, Cushla takes 7-year-old Davy McGeown, one of her students, under her wing. Born to a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, he is bullied and then the family situation becomes dire when the father is savagely beaten. Her relationship and her attempts to help the McGeowns have terrible repercussions because of the sectarian conflict.

The novel shows the brutal reality of life during The Troubles. Sectarian hate and violence impact daily life. There are barricaded streets, interrogations and searches at checkpoints, aggressive soldiers, beatings, bombings, and revenge killings. People must be extra vigilant as they go about their activities. No one is immune from the corrosive effects of constant violence: “Booby trap. Incendiary device. Gelignite. Nitroglycerine. Petrol bomb. Rubber bullets. Saracen. Internment. The Special Powers Act. Vanguard. The vocabulary of a seven-year-old child now.”

Michael’s appeal to Cushla is understandable. Besides handsome and charming, he is successful, well-to-do, and sophisticated. He introduces her to a different world, outside her normal life of taking care of her mother who often embarrasses her with her outrageous behaviour. Michael and Cushla talk about books and music and go to the theatre and elegant restaurants. Of course the affair threatens Cushla’s world as well; should people become aware of her relationship with Michael, especially because he is a Protestant, she could lose her job: “A teacher Cushla trained with had been sacked without a reference after someone wrote anonymously to the bishop that she was living in sin with her boyfriend.”

Cushla is a sympathetic character. She feels trapped and yearns for a better life: “Her gut burned with want. That she might get away from her family, her mother.” Her kindness shines through. In her job, she is always concerned about the welfare of the pupils in her care; she even tries to protect them from the hate-filled lectures of the priest when he comes to visit her classroom. Her efforts to help the McGeown family are well-intentioned though not always prudent. Her mother tries her patience, but nonetheless she looks after her as best as she can. Of course, Cushla is not a perfect person. To ease her guilt about the affair, she avoids thinking about Michael’s wife and when she does think about her, she admits to picturing “A wizen wee hag, or some rough-looking ould doll who needed her roots done.”

There is tension throughout the book. The reader knows that the affair will not end well. Given the political and religious situation, an explosion of some sort is inevitable. The crossing of invisible lines in a fractured community means there will be tragedy. Michael tells Cushla, “It’s not about what you do here . . . It’s about what you are.” Unfortunately, he’s wrong. People suffer because of the group to which they belong and because of what they do, even when they act out of the best of intentions.

This is a definite must-read to understand the inescapable impact of sectarian hatred on the lives of ordinary people.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | May 29, 2023 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 20 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
In ‘Trespasses,’ an affair can be fatal during Ireland’s Troubles...Kennedy has written a captivating first novel that manages to be beautiful and devastating in equal measure. Its bittersweetness is encapsulated in one of Cushla’s memorable comebacks. Michael asks if they, as a couple, are all right. “We’re doomed,” she replies. “Apart from that we’re grand.”
“Trespasses” revolves around 24-year-old Cushla Lavery, a Catholic schoolteacher living just outside Belfast in the early years of the Troubles, in a small town that is heavily occupied by British soldiers....Kennedy writes beautifully about love. Familial and romantic love, but perhaps most profoundly, the love between a vulnerable child and a teacher who cares deeply about his well-being. In the midst of rampant and unpredictable cruelty, it is the kindness of individuals to one another that gets anyone through.....As the novel progresses, it picks up a propulsive energy, the kind that compels you to keep reading straight through to the end. A rising sense of tension throughout comes to a shocking head. I am not a crier, but by the final pages of “Trespasses,” I was in tears. It’s a testament to Kennedy’s talents that we come to love and care so much about her characters. And that reading about a long and difficult period from the recent past feels not like history, but like a warning.
In her first novel, the acclaimed short-story writer draws on the 1070's Northern Ireland of her childhood, merging unspeakable times with tough humour and romance....in the small town outside Belfast where teacher Cushla Lavery lives with her mother, bombings and beatings fill the headlines. At 24, she is able to recall a time before the Troubles, unlike her class of seven-year-olds a the Catholic primary school....Louise Kennedy sets herself the challenge of encapsulating those unspeakable times and the powerlessness felt by ordinary people caught in the crossfire. She does so with skill, combining unflinching authenticity with narrative dexterity and a flair for detail, all wrapped up in a moving love story – two, really...
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Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a shattering debut novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and unsanctioned love. --

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