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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shadows on Our Skin by Jennifer Johnston

Shadows on Our Skin

Book Description:  
 Recognized as a small masterpiece when first published in 1977, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. A poignant novel about a boy in Derry jolted into early adulthood by harsh circumstances.
Not everyone remembers the horror of The Troubles in Northern Ireland--the murders, the bombings, the checkpoints, the constant guerrilla warfare.  A terrible time, a time of great violence; mothers didn't want their children on the street for fear of gunfire.

This novel was written in the midst of the troubles and examines the life of one family and the effects the Troubles had on them.  Joe Logan is the protagonist, a young boy stuck in a city under siege, whose home life is also full of anger and resentment. 

Joe finds a friend in Kathleen, a young school teacher who provides him with some respite from the harsh realities of life in conflict-ridden Derry.  But when Joe's brother Brendan returns and joins the Provos (Provisional Irish Republican Army), the problems at home escalate.  Then Brendan begins dating Kathleen, and Joe feels jealous and left out.

An intense and moving account of a time period that tore a country and families apart.


NetGalley/Open Road Media

Literary Fiction.  1977; 2014.  Print length:  177 page.


  1. I'm a little familiar with that time in Irish history but haven't read too much on it. I can only imagine what a frightful time that must have been. I will have to look for this book. It sounds like a must read.

  2. It really is good. I remember this time, when Northern Ireland was a war zone, and London was always on the look out for IRA bombers.

  3. This sounds intriguing. I have watched some movies about The Troubles (e.g. In the Name of the Father, Some Mother's Son, Hunger) but I haven't read much on that topic.

    I didn't know you were British -- living in fear of IRA bombers in London must have been terrifying. Such a tragic time for people on both sides of the conflict.

    Thanks for this review. I'll add this to my list.

  4. This sounds like a good read... with the plot, history and all. Will have to check it out.

  5. The story is a poignant one. As I suppose coming of age in a war torn country would be. Shadows is well-written, creating a vivid atmosphere of the time.

  6. Irene -- No, no, I'm not British! I just remember reading about the fear and destruction and saw some of the same films. I also remember visiting London when the IRA was still active.

  7. It was short, but intense. Glad this one got another edition; it is a kind of classic.