The Ghost Factory

Jenny McCartney. Fourth Estate, $24.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-00-829549-3
In McCartney’s well-written debut, set in Belfast in 1995, the Troubles are nearing an end—there’s a ceasefire, but not yet a peace treaty—but paramilitary groups still loom large and they’re happy to punish anyone who crosses them. This includes the narrator Jacky’s old friend Titch, who shoplifts from a store run by a family of “hardmen.” Jacky knows what will happen, and when Jacky’s efforts to avenge Titch’s beating put him at risk, he flees to London. His parents are dead (one recently, one long ago), and he’s so used to being alone that, after his relationship with a woman he meets in London ends, the ensuing loneliness feels “reliable” and “safe,” until lingering thoughts of revenge and bad news from home draw him back to Belfast. McCartney imbues the tale with a strong sense of place (Jacky’s surprised to find himself missing the light in Belfast, something he hadn’t realized was particular), and informs her meditation on violence’s haunting, and distorting effect on people’s lives through engaging literary references, as Jacky contrasts himself with the tormented protagonists in The Stranger and Crime and Punishment while working to escape his history without losing himself. This quietly satisfying character study will stay with readers. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/29/2020
Release date: 06/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-00-829551-6
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