Published: April 14th, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Political Fiction, Spiritual and Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my review of this powerful and moving debut.
WINNER OF THE AN POST IRISH BOOK AWARDS NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2022
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WATERSTONES DEBUT FICTION PRIZE 2022
AN OBSERVER BEST DEBUT NOVELIST OF 2022
A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK AT BEDTIME
A 2022 BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR: THE TIMES * SUNDAY TIMES * GUARDIAN * TELEGRAPH * NEW STATESMAN * DAILY MAIL * IRISH TIMES * IRISH INDEPENDENT * BELFAST TELEGRAPH
‘Like Sally Rooney mixed with a political thriller’ RUSSELL KANE
‘Intense, unflinchingly honest, it broke my heart a million times’ MARIAN KEYES
‘Absolutely loved it’ MAX PORTER
‘A beautiful, devastating novel’ NICK HORNBY
One by one, she undid each event, each decision, each choice.
If Davy had remembered to put on a coat.
If Seamie McGeown had not found himself alone on a dark street.
If Michael Agnew had not walked through the door of the pub on a quiet night in February in his white shirt.
There is nothing special about the day Cushla meets Michael, a married man from Belfast, in the pub owned by her family. But here, love is never far from violence, and this encounter will change both of their lives forever.
As people get up each morning and go to work, school, church or the pub, the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploded, another man beaten, killed or left for dead. In the class Cushla teaches, the vocabulary of seven-year-old children now includes phrases like ‘petrol bomb’ and ‘rubber bullets’. And as she is forced to tread lines she never thought she would cross, tensions in the town are escalating, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.
Tender and shocking, Trespasses is an unforgettable debut of people trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.
“I love Ireland. I just don’t think it’s worth killing anyone over it.”
A young catholic school-teacher and an older Protestant barrister from very different backgrounds shouldn’t fall in love. Especially not in Belfast at the height of the troubles. But that is exactly what happens after Michael walks into Cushla’s family pub in this story of mismatched and forbidden love. It is a love that must be kept secret; filled with clandestine dates and snatched moments. Can it last or will they be caught in the crossfire of the war that wages around them?
Belfast is a place that’s always felt like a part of my life. My Dad was stationed there in the Army during the troubles. I’ve grown up with his tales of what it was like there in the seventies and a love of all-things Irish remains in him to this day. Ireland became an even bigger part of my life in 2021 when my partner began working there for two weeks out of every month. Last May I accompanied him for two weeks while he worked in Belfast, and it was there that we got engaged. So, as you can imagine, it has a special place in my heart and I knew I had to read this book as soon as I first heard about it.
Powerful, moving, and heartbreaking, this is a story that will stay with me. I listened to Trespasses on audiobook, and the narrator was fantastic, not only transporting me back in time but bringing the story and characters to life so vividly that I could smell the cigarette smoke, taste the Guiness and see the soldiers on the streets. Debut author Louise Kennedy has skillfully written a story bursting with emotion on every page. It gets to the heart of how it felt to be an ordinary person living in a war zone and is a jarring reminder of the reality and dangers of their everyday lives. You can feel their fear of the soldiers and bombs, and of having to be so careful about who you are seen with and what you say. The side you were born into controlled every facet of their lives, and there was no escape. And having so recently been to the city and walked its streets, drank in The Crown pub, and even stayed at the Europa Hotel, which Cushla tells us was then known as the “hardboard hotel” because it was the most bombed hotel in Europe, I felt a real connection to this story, the city, and the characters.
The relationship between Michael and Cushla is used by the author not only as a love story but as a clever tool to help highlight the realities of everyday life for people in the troubles, as well as to help humanise the people on both sides of the conflict rather than focusing solely on Cushla’s Catholic perspective. But theirs isn’t the only complex relationship featured in this book. It is filled with many complicated relationships and characters that are richly drawn, compelling, and relatable. But my favourite character was young Davey, a little boy from one of Cushla’s classes from a deprived background. He went straight to my heart, and I loved the relationship between him and Cushla.
Gritty, unflinching, hopeful and transportive, Trespasses is an outstanding debut from an author that’s one to watch. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co. Down. Her short story collection, The End of the World is a Cut de Sac (Bloomsbury/ Riverhead US 2021) won the John McGahern Prize. Her debut novel, Trespasses (Bloomsbury/ Riverhead US 2022) won Eason’s Novel of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize and Barnes and Noble Discover Prize. Before she started writing, she spent nearly thirty years working as a chef. She lives in Sligo.
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