my challenges

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Watching the Door

Watching the Door:  Drinking Up, Getting Down, and Cheating Death in 1970s Belfast, by Kevin Myers.

This book chronicles the life of Kevin Myers, a young, naive journalist, raised in England, who foolishly or bravely accepts a post to Northern Ireland just as the Troubles are starting up their most recent chapter of violence.
This was an absolutely fascinating look inside life in Northern Ireland in that chaotic, frightening period, made all the more fascinating by the fact that Myers was largely seen as an outsider by all concerned, and therefore was able to interact with the highest levels of every political and paramilitary group during his time in Belfast.  What I found most interesting was the sheer randomness of the violence during that period.  Long a student of the most recent Troubles, I had no idea just how random the violence truly was.  I believed that if you stayed out of certain places and keep your nose clean, for the most part you could avoid the dangers, with the exception of just plain bad luck.  This book showed me that things were much more random than I had realized, and that just existing at times was enough to warrant your death.
One minor criticism.  This book will not have nearly the same impact on those who are unfamiliar with the history of Northern Ireland and the major players in the Troubles.  Myers assumes a basic level of familiarity with things, and does not stop to explain what the politics or stance of the groups he mentions are, for the most part, and he doesn't really place the events he describes within the bigger picture of the history of the Troubles.  As a result, anyone not already familiar with Northern Ireland in the 1970s will be a bit lost in places.  Otherwise, this was a fantastic, fascinating book, one I truly enjoyed reading, despite the depressing subject matter.  Definitely a 4.5 out of 5. 

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