Review: Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

Trespasses by Louise KennedyAbout this book

(via Exclusive Books)

One by one, she undid each event, each decision, each choice. If Davy had remembered to put on a coat. If Seamie McGeown had not found himself alone on a dark street. If Michael Agnew had not walked through the door of the pub on a quiet night in February in his white shirt.
There is nothing special about the day Cushla meets Michael, a married man from Belfast, in the pub owned by her family. But here, love is never far from violence, and this encounter will change both of their lives forever.

As people get up each morning and go to work, school, church or the pub, the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploded, another man beaten, killed or left for dead.

In the class Cushla teaches, the vocabulary of seven-year-old children now includes phrases like ‘petrol bomb’ and ‘rubber bullets’. And as she is forced to tread lines she never thought she would cross, tensions in the town are escalating, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.

Tender and shocking, Trespasses is an unforgettable debut of people trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.


Trespasses by Louise KennedyMy thoughts

This debut novel is set in Northern Ireland in 1975 – in a small town outside Belfast. As a student, I was fascinated with this part of history, also known as “The Troubles”. And I am not sure if I should even mention it, but during that time I was a big U2 fan – their early stuff, before Bono’s ego exploded – or did it implode? But that is another topic altogether! It was not only for ‘fan girl’ reasons though, one of my main subjects was Political Science and having grown up in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) in the 80s I could strongly identify and recognise the theatre of unrelenting violence and ideology clashes that was also quite prevalent at the other side of the planet.

“Trespasses” is moody, dark and gritty. Exactly what it was like to wake up every morning to news of yet another violent attack or bombing. Waking up to the news that the victim is someone you know. And then just having to put one foot in front of the other, feigning to live a normal life. Because that is exactly what life was like that moment in time.

Trespasses by Louise KennedyWe get to know this world through the eyes of Cushla Lavery, the main protagonist. Cushla lives a middle-class life with her alcoholic mother, and she is also working part-time in the local pub, owned by her family. During the day she teaches at the Catholic School. Here we get quite a harrowing insight as to what it was like to live through those times, with snippets of the daily news being shared at the start of every day. Amongst all the violence and uncertainty, she forms a special relationship with one of her young students, a shy and insecure boy called Davey. She tries her best to assist his family, who has fallen on hard times. All this whilst having to deal with an unsympathetic school system.

Cushla meets an older man, Michael, one evening at their pub. There is an instant attraction and, although he is Protestant – and married, a passionate and tender affair ensues. Michael also is a barrister from Belfast and it quite outspoken about the political scenario in the country. She is immediately taken by his sophistication, intellect, and maturity. Being a Catholic, living in a predominately Protestant part of town, being responsible for a mentally fragile mother and having a secret affair with a married man, Cushla is always walking a tightrope. All this adds to the ever-increasing tension.

“Trespasses” is beautifully written, deeply moving and tragic, so it isn’t a light or comfortable read.

5/5 rating from me!

This book also features on Exclusive Book’s #EBRecommends Fiction List for June 2022 Exclusive Books Recommends: Fiction to Look out for in June

Thanks to Exclusive Books for the gifted copy