Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paperboy by Tony Macaulay

Not sure where I've managed to plunk my copy of Paperboy so look here for Paperboy by Tony Macaulay details (that's a link to Amazon).

Paperboy is the memoir of a man who worked as a paperboy in Belfast during "the Troubles," a time when Catholics and Protestants were bombing each other and building up walls to divide their city.  I knew next to nothing about this particular period in Irish history, although I remember the news about bombings very well.  I recall once asking one of my parents what exactly they were fighting about in Ireland and the response was, "The Irish have pretty much been fighting for the last 500 years."  It wasn't quite the answer I'd hoped for.

What's truly wondrous about Macaulay's memoir is that he does an amazing job of keeping the story balanced and staying inside the head of a young boy.  He talks about how he felt, what was required to get the job done in a time when the buses he needed to get around town were often blown up and there was no way home but walking or taking a taxi (which he couldn't afford).  He talks about what he understood and what he did not about the violence, as a peace-loving child.  But, mostly he talks about life as a youngster in Belfast and what it was like to do his job - dealing with his boss, his determination to be the best newspaper boy on the Shankill, the challenges he faced (besides bombings, there were bullies, uptight customers and thieves to deal with) as well as his obsession with the Bay City Rollers and the concert he and the other youngsters looked forward to attending.

The year he focuses on is 1975.  And, don't make the mistake I made of looking up some of those Bay City Rollers songs he mentions, if you read the book.  I thought I'd never get them out of my head (but you should look at their outfits if you want a good laugh - just keep the volume off if you look up one of their videos, seriously).

I thought Paperboy was one of the best memoirs I've read in the last few years and now I'm seeking out more information about "the Troubles".  If you know of any good, readable titles about that time period in Irish history, please let me know!

Highly recommended, especially to those who enjoy memoirs and reading anything at all about Ireland, but honestly . . . just an excellent, well-written memoir, in general. Paperboy gave me that wonderful you were there sensation.  My only complaint would be that it could have used a brief glossary because I had difficulty, at first, in sorting out which soldiers (who were often described in slang terms) belonged to which side.  A little reading, a little googling and I had most of it figured out, though.

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  1. Sounds fascinating, and I love a good memoir! The time period is one I haven't read enough about.

    1. I liked it so much I'm thinking I may hold onto it for a reread, Jenclair. It's a very good memoir. You do learn a bit about that time period but because it's mostly about life as a paperboy the time and place were important but limited. Hopefully, I'll find another book about the Troubles, sometime!


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