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     Volume 2 Issue 130 | August 2 , 2009|


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Book Review

The Twelfth Day of July by Joan Lingard

Reviewed by Sameeha Suraiya

SET across a span of six days in the lives of a few teens growing up in Belfast, The Twelfth Day of July comes with amusing twists and some shocking awakenings. The world in question is the conflicted city of Northern Ireland, where tension and uncertainty brew. Bombings and fatal injuries have been the norm. Hatred is rooted in its tradition. The lens shifts on towards the younger generation, powerless and embittered, surviving in a world that they have never learned to question. The war between the Catholics and the Protestants has existed for such a long time that growing up with it, they are enmeshed into the same sentiments, convinced that everything is right the way it is. But the barbed wire that divides the two different faiths will be defied, as friendships spark amid the violence.

Joan Lingard superbly captures the sentiments of the Belfast youth of the early 1970's. They fight for their own beliefs with equal passion. They seem to be playing a game which isn't their own, nor even that of their parents. Growing up in Belfast, the author inevitable draws from her own experiences, the reason why some of the events are etched in such bone-chilling brilliance. What may seem to be trifle squabble between the two sects of youngsters abruptly take the ugliest turns, resulting in the most corrosive kind of hatred. Joan Lingard is known for her shrewd eye for portraying teenage preoccupations. Even in the midst of a bitter world, her characters sparkle alive with the freshness of youth. They have life and credibility. It all begins when the lives of Sadie Jackson and Kevin McCoy collide on the tense streets of Belfast. They live in identical houses on identical streets, yet differences between them set them poles apart, for Sadie is Protestant while Kevin is a Catholic. What starts with a dare - kids fooling around - soon becomes something dangerous. Kevin with his friend Brian vandalizes a mural of King Billy (a Protestant leader) that belongs to the Jackson family. Even though Kevin gets away Sadie swears revenge. Breaking into houses, painting things like "Long live the Pope" on the walls are the regular pranks. Things take a different turn as the 12th day of July, a day of lavish celebration for the Protestants, approaches. The whole book involves the countdown for the day, when Sadie will be marching. On the Protestant side they are decorating their streets and playing the drums, whilst on the Catholic side a group of youngsters are planning to sabotage. It comes as a relief as a result, when accidental friendships start paving their way and hostility takes a back seat.

The Twelfth Day of July is the first in a six part series by Lingard. The ending feels a little rushed; the scale of hatred shown throughout the novel, in the end, too seems to fall out of place and seems unjustified to the events leading up to it. Yet, it is Lingard's scathing observations on the sometimes blinded Irish youngsters and, at the same time, the resilience they cling to in order to find happiness. Reaching out for each other across the barricades is calling for trouble; getting to know Sadie Jackson will change Kevin's life forever. But will the world around them change too?

Whether read as a coming-of-age novel or a novel simply about the most trivial form of hatred based on religious differences, The Twelfth Day of July is a gripping read that attempts to dissolve the darkness of the mind. Hope come shining through as the protagonists wake up and begin to question the flailing civic system and all that is wrong in their lives. Read and witness how true revolutionaries are born.


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