This horrifying novel, based on historical fact, shows us the effects of the Troubles and the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in the 1970s on two families struggling just to exist. The details are very hard to read but essential to the impact of the novel. Prisoners refusing to wear jail uniforms to make clear their status as political, not criminal, detainees went "on the blanket", nude except for wraps inadequate in the unheated cells. Their secret code language, "jailiac", intense loyalty to their cause, and endgame of death before capitulation, tear at the heart and defy reason. In retrospect, now that the Troubles are over and political peace restored, we are challenged to question events in Gaza and Guantanamo and our tolerance of the intolerable. Louise Dean has done a masterful job of transporting us into this horrific world, including her use of Irish idiom and slang without translation. It is as if we are overhearing the words of foreign strangers while on their turf--and able to tease out the meanings without assistance from them. This book deserves wide readership and public discussion.
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