The Backslider Synopsis.
McGrady’s compelling novel is set in Belfast in 1972 – one of the worst years of a violent period for that most haunted of cities. Even for readers whose image of the place is one derived from archive newsreel footage, the novel cannot fail to have a resonance.
From the opening sentences, which convey the hopes and fears of the novel’s teenage protagonist, Marius Moonston, the place and its people are brought vividly to life. Ontologically and ethically.
With Marius – a latter-day Stephen Dedalus – we wander its streets, and encounter a selection of its citizens. We witness its atrocities, too – but these are casually mentioned.
In a world in which destruction has become the norm, one more destructive act – in this instance, the bombing of a betting-shop – passes almost without comment. Marius’s main concerns, we learn, are otherwise.
Estranged from his Evangelical Christian family, and especially from his mother, whose religious beliefs apparently justify unlimited bullying of her son, the sixteen year-old narrator seems hell-bent on making this an irrevocable rift.
The story begins with the theft of a five pound note – a ‘crime’ for which Marius is to pay dearly… But not before he and his sidekick, Linus, have enjoyed some of what their city has to offer – ranging from a decidedly disturbing backstreet encounter, to a more rewarding flirtation with a local siren.
It’s all sharply drawn and alive, and needless to say, very funny – although the humour is shot through with darkness, as is the Irish way (think Flann O’Brien’s Third Policeman).
But for all its irreverent wit, this is a serious – and beautifully written – work, which memorably evokes a turbulent era.
Praise for The Backslider:
“Clever and honest, playful but disturbing–The Backslider is a demanding and hugely enjoyable novel.” –Roddy Doyle
McGrady’s greatest trick: he does it in early-`70s Belfast, church-riven and bullet-riddled. It’s as if Flann O’Brien took his blarney to Stalingrad — and there held the armies spellbound.” –John Domini, author of Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery
“I read The Backslider with increasing admiration and delight. An absolute stunning coming of age novel, set in The Troubles and you can literally smell the cordite and the litany of The Evangelical Church.
Beautifully wrought with a skill that seems to be more in line with an assured half dozen books under your belt. Moving and drenched in the appalling consequences of an apparently petty act.
Catcher in the Northern Province, with a compassion that echoes long after the book is read, and an assurance that here is anovel to return to over and wonderfully over.” –Ken Bruen, author of The Guards and The White Trilogy
“With echoes of the distinctive humour and philosophical meditations inherited from a rich Irish literary legacy, the Backslider is an accomplished and deeply affecting novel, McGrady’s observations on the nature of adolescence are powerful and provocative.” –Ian Holding, author of Unfeeling: A Novel and Of Beasts and Beings
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