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The Price of my Soul

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Bernadette Devlin's book tells two stories:

The story of 'the real flesh-and-blood Bernadette'
'If you eat up all the bread at teatime, there won't be anything for breakfast...'
She tells the story of personal 'bottom-level' poverty, of her combined struggle to go to university and to look after her orphaned brothers and sisters...of how she became involved in Civil Rights, and what happened when her people chose her as their MP...

The story of the rage behind the Ulster riots
'You come to a factory, looking for a job, and they ask you which school you went to. If its name was "Saint Somebody", they know you are a Catholic and you don't get taken on...'

In vivid detail, she brings to life the situation which has focused world attention on the North of Ireland...the early marches, and then the shootings, the burnings, the barricades...how she went to America to help her people rebuild their homes...and how she feels today...

206 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 1969

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Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

3 books15 followers

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5 stars
148 (44%)
4 stars
116 (35%)
3 stars
55 (16%)
2 stars
8 (2%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Diane Maggie.
31 reviews
December 31, 2017
This is a book I have read twice. Once when I was very young and very pro-IRA. And then later when I was mature enough to put aside an ingrained hatred of the British. Both times I was fascinated. The Charlestown I grew up in had "Bobby Sands" graffiti. There was money collected for NORAID. So I was very indignant on Devlin's behalf. My grandmother's father was killed 60 or 70 years before for violating a curfew. The second time I was better informed about what an abomination the IRA was and I saw Devlin's socialism for what it was. But it didn't change how her life amazed me.
28 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2008
"To gain that which is worth having, it may be be necessary to lose everything else." - Bernadette Devlin

My all-time favorite quote, from this incredible woman.
Profile Image for Abby.
5 reviews
September 8, 2012
Devlin writes an explanation of what made her into the person she became, up to the time of publication in 1969. It's a fascinating exploration of the forces at work in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Writing as both a student activist and a socialist, Devlin underscores what was really at stake for the working class Catholics of Northern Ireland. She argues that the solution to Northern Ireland's (and all of Ireland's) problems lay outside its sectarian issues, and was in reality more about economics than religion. The Price of My Soul challenges the popular assumption that the divide in Northern Ireland is between Protestant and Catholic and lays out what Devlin considers to be the best solution: a complete overhaul of Northern Ireland's economic system along socialist lines.
Profile Image for Gavin.
3 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2008
Incredible story of Devlin's fight for justice and freedom. It definately makes you see "the struggles" in a new light.
Profile Image for Rachel (rachelreadsagain).
84 reviews9 followers
July 15, 2020
Part memoir, part thesis, part explanatory memo - this is a must read for anyone interested in the history or present of Northern Ireland. Devlin recounts her early life in Cookstown, how her politics were shaped by poverty and education, the events of 1968-69, the rise and fall of People's Democracy, and her election as MP for Mid-Ulster.

The highlights of the book are Devlin's astute analysis of political players in Northern Ireland, Dublin and Westminster, and her nuanced examination of segregation's impact on CNR and PUL working classes at that time. Unfortunately, so much of her analysis remains relevant to present day Northern Ireland and is far superior to the vast majority of contemporary political commentary despite being written 4 decades ago.

It's a shame that this book is no longer in print and therefore difficult to access. I hope that it can find a new audience through future publication in e-book form.
Profile Image for Deirdre.
102 reviews65 followers
November 7, 2012
This novel explores the childhood and young adulthood of Bernadette Devlin who was appointed as the youngest female MP in 1969. Her account explores her motives for becoming involved in People's Democracy as it highlights the discrimination and oppression which Catholics faced in the North of Ireland at that time, and her efforts to challenge the Unionist dominated government in order to effect a more just and equitable society. A gripping account of a difficult period in Ireland's history written with compassion, insight and a ready wit. Highly recommended
138 reviews2 followers
December 29, 2021
If anyone wants to read it, it is available for free at: https://archive.org/stream/priceofmys...

A good book, but seemed somewhat disjointed. Her negativity around being an MP seems odd as soon after the book she stood for and won re-election.
The details about her upbringing are very interesting.
76 reviews
September 16, 2007
Written in 1969 by a 20 year old Catholic who a year later became the youngest-ever Member of Parliament. Gives an on-the-scene picture of life in Derry in 1968/1969. Very controversial--just ask Tim or Annie about the miniskirt she wore on a trip to Chicago in the 1970s!!
568 reviews
May 3, 2008
Autobiography at age 22? It makes sense for Bernadette who arises from the cauldron of northern Ireland as the attempt to emulate the peaceful civil rights marches of the American civil rights movement runs into the reality that any marching in northern Ireland is a magnet for violence. 1969 and the lid blows off in northern Ireland and her election to the house of commons is only a prelude to a thirty year civil war and Bernadette moves into the shadows of history. Her refusal to embrace the IRA and her audacity to have a child out of wedlock marginalize her in the catholic community.
Profile Image for Craig Werner.
Author 12 books156 followers
June 23, 2022
Present tense memoir of one of the most interesting and influential leaders of the Northern Irish movement before the turn to violence that raged for decades. Devlin presents a clear picture of the process that lead her from slightly rebellious Irish schoolgirl to committed socialist activist. The style's clear, the vision deeply grounded in its particular time and place.
Profile Image for Marydanielle.
50 reviews3 followers
November 29, 2010
My dad tried to convert me to the IRA but somehow I resisted. The anti-war movement and my exposure to Quakerism, Christianity, and Eastern philosophy disaffected me from violent revolutionary ideology. Sorry dad.
16 reviews
October 13, 2021
On top of being an honest and inspiring personal narrative of a young political figure, it’s an incredibly entertaining, well written book, and a fascinating snapshot of 1968-1969, one of the most pivotal periods in the whole history of Ireland.
Profile Image for Leela Martin.
94 reviews
February 6, 2019
This was a really fun and interesting read. Devlin explains really well the situation in Northern Ireland and gives a more human side to the manifestations and the events during The Troubles.
Profile Image for Donna Davis.
1,744 reviews234 followers
July 21, 2017
Devlin write this, her autobiography, when she was all of 23 years old. Had it been anyone else I would have considered it ridiculous, a juvenile pretention, but Bernadette Devlin was one of the primary fighters for Irish freedom during the tumultuous 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, and given how events played out, it is likely that she wrote this while fully anticipating that she’d be killed in the struggle fairly early on. Goodness knows, the British cops tried. Here’s a bit of background information from Wikipedia:

On 16 January 1981 she and her husband were shot by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, who broke into their home near Coalisland, County Tyrone. The gunmen shot Devlin fourteen times in front of her children. British soldiers were watching the McAliskey home at the time, but failed to prevent the assassination attempt, indeed it has been claimed that Devlin's assassination was ordered by British authorities and that collusion was a factor. An army patrol of the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, entered the house and waited for half an hour. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey has claimed they were waiting for the couple to die. Another group of soldiers then arrived and transported her by helicopter to a nearby hospital. The paramilitaries had torn out the telephone and while the wounded couple were being given first aid by the newly arrived troops, a soldier ran to a neighbour's house, commandeered a car, and drove to the home of a councillor to telephone for help. The couple were taken by helicopter to hospital in nearby Dungannon for emergency treatment and then to the Musgrave Park Hospital, Military Wing, in Belfast, under intensive care.

Soon after her recovery, the author-activist went on a speaking tour, and this reviewer was able to hear her talk when she came to the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. Her intelligence, eloquence, and fierce, courageous nationalism left me spellbound. And yet, it was only recently that I learned she’d written a memoir over a decade earlier. I was even more amazed to find that it was available for sale, albeit used and fairly banged up; all praise to the internet. And so this time, instead of heaping praise upon the publishers, I will thank my youngest son for securing a copy for me at Christmas. It was worth the wait.

Devlin was orphaned, along with her sisters and brothers, when she was still a teenager. She and her siblings had a conversation and decided that they would raise themselves, rather than be parceled out to relatives and neighbors, broken up like pieces of a candy bar to be distributed willy-nilly by the church. But her parents left her a legacy, one that said not to let anyone shove a Devlin around. One of my favorite moments in her engaging narrative is early on, when her mother is being attended by a physician for a fallen arch in one foot. The doctor’s solution is to tightly bind it in hopes it will grow back to its proper configuration, but instead it becomes desperately deformed. One day when the doctor is rebandaging it, her mother complains of pain, and the doctor replies that there is no real pain; he says her mother is merely neurotic. In response, her mother raises her good foot and kicks the man across the room.

A woman after my own heart.

But the best passages, as the reader might expect, are those detailing the struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland, and in particular the struggle based on social class regardless of religion. She tells of the horrific events of Bloody Sunday, when a peaceful parade including small children and babies in their strollers is gunned down by cops. Devlin speaks of the “evil delight” she sees on the faces of violent cops as they beat people down at an earlier demonstration.

There are lessons to be learned here, and now is the time to learn them.

Remarkably enough, there are still copies of this historical treasure for sale, used. Anyone that is interested in the Irish freedom struggle; cop violence; or Irish history should find a copy now, while you can still get them cheaply.
Profile Image for Glen.
721 reviews
July 5, 2017
Bernadette Devlin was the youngest person ever elected as a Member of Parliament when she was voted in in 1968, at the inception of what came to be known as the Northern Ireland Troubles. In this book she tells about the development of her political consciousness and her sense of impotence and frustration with the politics of the six counties of Ulster under British control. She tells in chilling (and also at times humorous) detail of the march from Belfast to Derry under constant scrutiny by British police and harassment from Unionists. She describes the Battle of the Bogside, the Catholic slum of Derry now immortalized by the sign that reads "You are now entering Free Derry" and the site, in 1971, of the infamous "Bloody Sunday" killing of thirteen unarmed civilians at the hands of British troops. While this book was written before that day of infamy, her description leaves little doubt as the inevitability of some such clash occurring. She is no Republican, however, though she is clearly more sympathetic to the IRA and Sinn Fein than to their Unionist counterparts. She advocates clearly and consistently for socialism as the only real solution to Ireland's woes and has as little faith in the Republic to the south as she does in the colonial power headquartered at Westminster, or in the Catholic Church that she views as ultimately complicit in the maintenance of the status quo. Like James Connolly, the Irish patriot and socialist who was executed by the British for his part in the 1916 Easter Uprising, and like his 18th Century predecessor Wolfe Tone, she sees the religious division in Northern Ireland as a giant red herring diverting attention and energy away from the class struggle against the root causes of economic and social injustice. Hers is a voice uniquely passionate, opinionated, and candid. This is an engaging read of great historical importance.
3 reviews20 followers
March 13, 2022
Bernadette Devlin was a revolution in and of herself. I am sure she never set out to be a revoulutionary which is exactly why she did. Her raw honesty and ability to share her own emotion in tandem with fact makes this a perfect exploration of the women's revolution in the eyes of the woment of the age. It wasn't a revolution as it happened. It was simply, life. History needs to be viewed in perspective and that is exactly what Devlin McAliskey does. She is a poignant example of all women in the era. Real. Provocative. Palpable. The book is exemplary because it is mundane. (If mundane can be explanatory to the obvious of the time.)
History seeks the outrageous, the recorded, the "star" factory. Yet, real history needs the world as it is/was in any general time. "The Price of my Soul" is a record of what happened, by a normal, beautiful, whole woman of the time. It is the epitome of social history and a testament to her life and action. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is not a revolutionary (and yet, she is). She is not exemplary (and yet, she is). She is what existed/exists. She is real, tangible, perfect. She is human, falliable, wanton, perfectly imperfect. This memoir shows the truth and should be examined as such, from the perspective of her own experience.
All things in perspective.
Profile Image for Andy.
23 reviews2 followers
October 2, 2020
I've had this on my shelf for a long time, but never got around to reading it because I didn't think I needed to read a book-length treatment of the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland. How silly of me. Of course I should have suspected that one of the best orators I ever have had a chance to hear might also write a glorious memoir. For me, the notable treasure in this little vault is the first third of the book, the opening four chapters, in which she tells of her upbringing, stories of her father and mother, siblings, extended family, her teachers...The descriptions of her relationships with her mother, father and Mother Benignus give so much insight into the hero she became (and still is, at 73.). It'll be an inspiration to anyone at any age who wants to make their life count.
Profile Image for Bert Corluy.
19 reviews
April 23, 2022
This is not a memoir or a history nor an autobiography. It's not a political tract aimed at convincing the reader of her point of view. This is Bernadette Devlin telling you in her own voice and in her straight shooter style who she is, where she came from, why she did what she did. She does not go into great detail because again this is not a memoir or biography. This is simply her story from her point of view. It gives the reader a deeper understanding of a peculiar actor in the political cauldron that was northern ireland in the 60's and seventies. And one does not have to agree with everything she believes or even with anything at all to appreciate her disarming candor en openness. For the reader interested in the history of the troubles or simply in a window into the life of a most peculiar activist, this book is heartily recommended.
Profile Image for Elena Akers.
104 reviews1 follower
May 6, 2020
Read for a book review assignment for a class about the Northern Ireland conflict. An interesting look at Bernadette Devlin’s early life and what led her to politics throughout the beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Fairly average memoir content, but if you’re particularly interested in the civil rights movement in NI or Devlin as a historical figure, it’s pretty good. Wouldn’t recommend just this memoir if you’re looking to understand the bigger picture of the sectarian conflict, though. Devlin is an interesting figure and it is kind of a shame she wrote the memoir so early on, as I would’ve liked to read one including her reflections on her political career.
Profile Image for Debs Erwin.
93 reviews
September 19, 2022
This provides fascinating insight into a key period in Northern Ireland/the north of Ireland especially the student and civil rights movements of the late 60s. It's written with Ms McAliskey's characteristic straight-talking, no-nonsense approach as well as relating events with dry wit. As it's out of print and second hand copies are scarce - so scarce that when I spotted one in a Belfast charity shop displayed in glass cabinet I was told it carried an asking price of £200 - I was lucky to get to borrow this copy from a friend who has had it in the house for years!
Profile Image for Caitlin.
499 reviews29 followers
October 11, 2017
provides quite a bit of insight on the sectarian situation in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. It's a bit twofold - partly about Bernadette's upbringing and her parents, and partly about her political career and Irish politics. It does get a little confusing especially during her election because there are so many opponents and political figures to keep track of, and I'm not especially familiar with them. But it's also a bit of a primer on socialist revolutions.
Profile Image for Rose.
6 reviews
September 14, 2020
this was incredible- wanted to learn more about bernadette since listening to her interview with the blindboy podcast, and this was v good. particularly for how & why the troubles started from someone who was v much at the centre of things. if u can get ur hands on a copy, do (& listen to her interview too)! book is out of print so hard to find but happy to lend out my edition if ur v careful with it
154 reviews22 followers
December 17, 2020
great read, worth it for the vividly realised account of her childhood alone, which is up there in terms of any writing on the subject i've ever come across. i can see why the book is so hard to find and the author hasn't put out a re-print, there's a lot here in the way of forecasts of working-class unity that were not quite borne out, but as a document of people's democracy's foundation and limitations, unsurpassed
8 reviews5 followers
February 26, 2019
This is an extraordinary story well told by an extraordinary woman. She was only 22 at the time of writing and the youngest woman to be elected to the UK parliament. She explains the origins of the war in Northern Ireland in the clearest prose. You can feel her understandable anger but it does not detract in any way from the clarity of her descriptions.
Profile Image for John Grogan.
55 reviews
October 20, 2019
God Bless Bernadette Devlin. I was eight years old when Bernadette Devlin was on every black and white telly in The Free State as she calls The Republic of Ireland. Price of My Soul is an honest account of that time. Fifty years on the book resonates her defiance and honesty as I remember it. The book ends in 1969 but that was the beginning of what became known as The Troubles. Brilliant book
Profile Image for Eimear O’Donoghue.
6 reviews4 followers
July 2, 2020

I will always admire her ability to go to Westminister and sit amongst MPs who treated her like a girl instead of a representative. Also having to endure the pomp and ceremony of it all even though she knew it wouldn’t further her agenda must have been difficult.
She wrote brilliantly, just wish there was more to read.
Profile Image for Katelyn Thompson.
51 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2020
Bernadette Devlin writes in a personable voice, and provides an interesting account of the troubles in Northern Ireland that don’t require background information. She also creates a fascinating account of her own life and childhood, and her role as the youngest MP.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews

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