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Five great books set in BELFAST

3rd September 2019

Belfast is the latest city for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Belfast.

Five great books set in BELFAST

‘I certainly notice the vitality in Belfast, which wasn’t there in the Seventies. There was a war going on then. Now there are cranes everywhere. There really is a sense of renewal and hope’ – Liam Neeson

The Good Son by Paul McVeigh 

Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him ‘gay’. It doesn’t help that his best friend is his little sister, Wee Maggie, and that everyone knows he loves his Ma more than anything in the world. He doesn’t think much of his older brother Paddy and really doesn’t like his Da.

He dreams of going to America, taking Wee Maggie and Ma with him, to get them away from Belfast and Da. Mickey realises it’s all down to him. He has to protect Ma from herself. And sometimes, you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.

Cal by Bernard MacLaverty

Set in the Northern Ireland of the 1980’s, Cal tells the story of a young Catholic man living in a Protestant area. For Cal, some choices are devastatingly simple: he can work in an abattoir that nauseates him or join the dole queue; he can brood on his past or plan a future with Marcella.

Springing out of the fear and violence of Ulster, Cal is a haunting love story that unfolds in a land where tenderness and innocence can only flicker briefly in the dark.

Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour

A British cabinet minister is gunned down on a London street by an IRA assassin. In the wake of national outcry, the authorities must find the hitman. But the trail is long cold, the killer gone to ground in Belfast, and they must resort to more unorthodox methods to unearth him. Ill prepared and poorly briefed, undercover agent Harry Brown is sent into the heart of enemy territory to infiltrate the terrorists.

But when it is a race against the clock, mistakes are made and corners cut. For Harry Brown, alone in a city of strangers, where an intruder is the subject of immediate gossip and rumour, one false move is enough to leave him fatally isolated…

Paperboy by Tony Macaulay

It’s Belfast, 1975. The city lies under the dark cloud of the Troubles, and hatred fills the air like smoke. But Tony Macaulay has just turned twelve and he’s got a new job. He’s going to be a paperboy. And come rain or shine – or bombs and mortar – he will deliver…

Paperboy lives in Upper Shankill, Belfast, in the heart of the conflict between Loyalists and Republicans. Bombings are on the evening news, rubble lies where buildings once stood, and rumours spread like wildfire about the IRA and the UDA.

But Paperboy lives in a world of Doctor Who, Top of the Pops and fish suppers. His battles are fought with all the passion of Ireland’s opposing sides – but against acne, the dentist and the ‘wee hoods’ who rob his paper money. On his rounds he hums songs by the Bay City Rollers, dreams about outer space and dreams even more about the beautiful Sharon Burgess.

In this touching, funny and nostalgic memoir, Tony Macaulay recounts his days growing up in Belfast during the Troubles, the harrowing years which saw neighbour fighting neighbour and brother fighting brother. But in the midst of all this turmoil, Paperboy, a scrappy upstart with a wicked sense of humour and sky-high dreams, dutifully goes about his paper round. He is a good paperboy, so he is.

Paperboy proves that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times; it is a story that will charm your socks off, make you laugh out loud and brings to life the culture, stories and colourful characters of a very different – but very familiar – time.

White Leaves of Peace by Tracey Iceton

Northern Ireland, Good Friday, 1998. The Belfast Peace Agreement is signed, the Troubles are officially over. This should be the start of a new life for nine year-old Cian Duffy. But growing up in peace-torn Belfast is not easy and, when the sectarian conflicts of the present collide with his mother’s IRA past, Cian is forced to search for that new life elsewhere.

UK, 23 June, 2016: Britain votes for Brexit and new troubles threaten. Amid seismic political changes, Cian must somehow confront both the past and the future. Because peace is hard won — you have to fight for it.

Which titles would you add to the list? Remember to check out the TripFiction listings for more books set in Belfast and around the world. Each will transport you to some excellent fiction, travelogues or memoirs. Or you may have your own favourites you would like to add. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.

And search for books by location on our new ‘Great Books Set In’ page.

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