Article by Leni Hurley
On February 22nd, we gathered in my house in Oirschot to discuss our chosen book for the month, Reading in the Dark, written by the Irish writer Seamus Deane.
If you always wanted to know what it was like for a Roman Catholic to grow up in Northern Ireland in the years after the independence of the Republic of Ireland in the south, and before the outbrake of the infamous “Troubles” in the north, then this is the book for you. It is set in Londonderry, in a Catholic Irish community, in the years between 1920 and 1957, when British rule over the Catholic communities was oppressive and intimidating, belittling and condecensing. It was a time, also, of continued oppression and initmidation by the Catholic church over its own flock, but that is, or was, of all times and places. The ordinary Catholics, in other words, were second class citizens in every sense of the word. They were barred from all government jobs, including the police and the army, hence, the hostility and distrust between the two communities in, and especially between the local police force and the Catholic citizens. It is in this atmosphere, that the main character in the book grows up. He is an intelligent lad who, over the years, pieces together what took place in his family before he was born, and how it continues to poison and darken the atmosphere within his family and community into the present. It’s a book about the consequences of apartheid: it’s about brutality, betrayal and mistrust. But it is also about enduring love.
As Anne summed it up in the end: While not everyone had finished the book, those who did, enjoyed it, finding it’s writing poetic. The Ireland it describes…such a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!