Thursday 3 June 2021

The Troubles With Us by Alix O'Neill | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The Troubles With Us by Alix O'Neill - 5/5
"A hilarious memoir about growing up in Northern Ireland in the 90s towards the end of the Troubles and a brilliantly propelling narrative of the extraordinary background story of her mother. Her mother’s vivid personality and witty colloquialisms dominate the book and help to give a social history of life in Belfast from the 1950s onwards.

Growing up on the Falls Road in 1990s Belfast, Alix O'Neill has seen it all – burnt-out buses blocking the route to school, the police mistaking her father for a leading terrorist and a classmate playing hide and seek with her dad's prosthetic hand (blown off making a device for the IRA). Not that she or her friends are up to speed with the goings-on of the resistance. They’re too preoccupied with the obsessions of every teenage girl – booze, boys and Boyzone – to worry about the violence on their doorstep. Besides, the odd coffee jar bomb is nothing compared to the drama about to explode in Alix’s personal life. 

Desperate to leave Northern Ireland and the trials of her mother’s unorthodox family – a loving yet eccentric band of misfits – behind, she makes grand plans for the next stage. But it’s through these relationships and their gradual unravelling that Alix begins to appreciate not only the troubled history of where she comes from, but the strength of its women.
Warm, embarrassing and full of love and insight, The Troubles with Us is a hilarious and moving account of the madness and mundanities of life in Northern Ireland during the thirty-year conflict. It's a story of mothers and daughters, the fallout from things left unsaid and the lengths a girl will go to for fake tan."

There is no way I could give this book less than five stars. I am genuinely obsessed with it.

The Troubles With Us is very close to home for me. I was born in west Belfast in 1992 and still live in Belfast now, although no longer in the west. The author is also from the west so every place that was mentioned throughout the book was in the area where I grew up. It was unbelievably familiar to me.

Alix writes about her life from childhood right up to today and the humour is strong throughout. I laughed out loud on many occasions. As we read about Alix's life, which is very interesting might I add, we also hear about riots, murders, protests etc that were happening around the same time.

As someone who grew up in Belfast nothing about the history of the city shocked me but I suppose seeing it all written down just makes you think. This is great book for everyone to read, especially if you are not from Northern Ireland. It is so important for others to know exactly what it is like to live here and what it was like to grow up here.

The book is completely non-biased so we hear both sides of the "story", what both Catholics and Protestants believed, or rather, still do.

Alix is a really great storyteller and I loved that it started off with what it was like during The Troubles, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement right through to some of the more recent protests, the heartbreaking and unnecessary death of Lyra McKee and how Brexit would have an effect on us in Northern Ireland. It doesn't seem like anything will ever change. I feel like this book will be so shocking to anyone not from NI but it is so normal for us.

A few things that stood out for me were:
1. I wholeheartedly agree with the Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement love.
2. "Rebecca sounded like the kind of girl who had her shit together" - I can tell you right now, that's a lie.
3. "It was normal to have a fake name in your back pocket." I remember as a shortcut to get home sometimes, I would cut through an area that wasn't "my own". I would be so glad that I had a generic name but I did often have create a fake area where I'd say I lived if I was ever asked. That was the norm for us.

I know from my review so far that it sounds very heavy but Alix has a great way of adding comedy into a serious story. If you like the TV show Derry Girls, you will love The Troubles With Us.

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