I don’t think I would normally have picked up this book, but it was the monthly pick for a book club I was intending to join. Turns out though, I couldn’t go to the book club because I was sick, goddammit!! I’m really grateful I read this book through because it was so much fun. It kind-of reminded me of Irvine Welsh, the way chapters were narrated by different people and then the comedy element, like the banter between Jake and his cat and then of course Chuckie’s mad money-making schemes! There wasn’t the drug-culture of Irvine Welsh, but I ended-up feeling like I knew these characters intimately, which is how I feel when I read one of his books.
To counteract the books serious backdrop, which was Belfast in the midst of the armed struggle, known as The Troubles, a lot of the book was just plain silly! There was always a deeper issue snaked around the silliness though, which made you feel like you were reading something that really mattered.
The book was set in the six-months before and after the ceasefire of the 90's, so when I went into it, I was expecting it to be relatively balanced between the before and after. In reality though, the majority of it, about eighty-percent, was set in the six-months leading up to the ceasefire. I think perhaps that, while the period after the ceasefire was as unstable politically as the period before, it was slightly easier to communicate in the time before.
The story centered around two friends, Jake and Chuckie. The story was mostly about Jake and his search for love in a troubled city and Chuckie's thirst for easy money. The plot was secondary to the character's though and if you read it you'll find that that doesn't matter much at all. Each chapter that was narrated by Jake was in the first-person, and the chapters from Chuckie’s point of view were third-person. This injected a bit of freshness into it and if anything, made me aware when the POV had switched! I'm a bit slow to catch-up sometimes! One other chapter was told in a reportage style while detailing a bombing as well.
What I really enjoyed about this book was how it communicated the political unease (or lack thereof) amidst the ordinary people of Belfast. I’m from Belfast and can tell you that the author got it spot on when it came to how the lay-man felt then, and even perhaps now.
I would definitely recommend this book if you’re a character-junkie like me. Everyone here felt like a friend by the end.