Louise Dean lives in France with her husband and three children.
Set in Belfast during the Troubles, Dean's accomplished second novel (after Becoming Strangers) is an affecting and well-researched depiction of the political and social strife of Northern Ireland in the winter of 1979. John Dunne, a 20-year veteran of the British army, takes a job as a prison guard at Belfast's Maze prison and is assigned to work in the squalid high-security block where the most hardened IRA inmates are engaged in a protest they call the Blanket (the inmates refuse to wear clothes and smear their feces on the cell walls one enterprising pair "paints" a fireplace). A newly arrived inmate, Sean Moran, imprisoned for his part in the bombing death of a policeman, becomes pivotal in the plan to take the protest to the next level. On the outside, Sean's mother, Kathleen, struggles to raise her remaining children while British soldiers routinely search her house for weapons, and John grows close with his adult illegitimate son. The possibility of violence is ever-present, especially for John, whose job makes him a target on and off the clock. Dean writes strong characters and provides a sympathetic rendering of both sides of the conflict, making for a powerful and memorable novel. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Christmas is coming in bleak and lawless 1979 Belfast, but there is little cheer for the families of IRA political prisoners or for their prison guards. Alternating chapters follow the stories of Sean Moran, a young man in prison for his part in a car bombing gone awry, and John Dunn, a former British soldier and recent guard recruit. Brutality and mistrust characterize both sides of this increasingly volatile conflict. Finally, with the assistance of outside agitators, the inmates conspire to begin a hunger strike in support of their demands for more humane conditions. As inside conditions go from squalid to hellish, more human dramas take place outside Maze Prison, as Dunn finds a college-age son he never knew he had and Moran's mother comes to terms with her unhappy marriage. Drawing on actual events, Dean uses crystalline prose to paint both sides of the conflict with an equally tender and sympathetic brush. Not for the squeamish but highly recommended.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.