Lari Don's Reviews > The Twelfth Day of July

The Twelfth Day of July by Joan Lingard
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Mar 05, 12

Read from February 29 to March 05, 2012

It can be very risky rereading a book you remember from your childhood. I've been rereading my Diana Wynne Jones books regularly for years, and I know they can cope with the passage of time because they are mostly set out of time. But it was a bit of a risk to reread what I remembered as a shocking, gripping, highly contemporary, highly political book which I first read in the 1970s. But I'm really glad I did! The Twelfth Day of July is about the political and religious situation in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago, and it's still masterful. Exciting, moving, funny, tense. It starts with an incredible two chapters introducing a Protestant family and a Catholic family, over tea-time on the same evening, expertly and clearly explaining a complex conflict in a simple and subtle way. Politicians and journalists have struggled to make as much sense of Northern Ireland! And once the action starts, it's non-stop. Kids from both sides of an invisible line of mistrust and hatred escalate a war of graffiti, house-breaking and chip-pan fires, until finally it breaks into violence. But the story is about growing friendship too (it's the start of a series in which the two main characters overcome incredible social pressures to fall in love, but you don't need to know that to enjoy their arguements, stand-offs, and fights as teenagers.)
This wasn't history when it was written, it was current and convincing reality. And it doesn't read like history now (despite the crunching poverty and casual sexism of the society) - it's tight, fast, modern and still a very good read.
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