Thursday, October 8, 2009

Faloorie Man--Eugene McEldowney (book review)

Eugene McEldowney's Faloorie Man has been out for ten years, but Gemma Media brought it to the U.S. in 2009. This charming semi-autobiographical novel is the coming-of-age story of a Catholic boy growing up in Belfast in the post-World War 2 era. Here's one of my favorite moments, when young Martin McBride decides, for the first time in his life, to go and have a look at the Protestant Taylor boys, who are rumored to live nearby. Martin's never seen a Protestant before, and he's in for a shock.
I didn't know what to expect, but I wouldn't have been surprised if they had horns on their heads. I remembered what Sarah had told me about the Titanic and the way the Orangemen had cursed the Pope and how God had let the sea drown them. It seemed to me that these Taylors would be bad pills altogether.

We finally tracked them to the waste ground at Butler Street. There were two of them and they were kicking a football around. They looked exactly the same as us. They had the same scuffed shoes and snotty noses and torn cardigans. There were no obvious signs that they were Protestants. I was disappointed. We took a good look at them and then got on our bikes and went home.
Such a simple scene, and yet, it says so much. This is McEldowney's strength. Scenes such as this leave a stronger impact than the more dramatic plot developments later in the novel.

The Soundtrack: Oh, how I wanted to find the song the book's title is taken from! I couldn't find it online. But the narrative is full of music, including the lyrics to Boolavogue. The narrator recalls his teacher, Brother Delargey, teaching the class rebel songs, "which he said the English had tried to suppress, but they lived on in the hearts of the people because the Irish were indomitable and would never be put down."

7 comments:

  1. Love that scene.. you are right, it is so simple but says so much!

    I am adding this one to mu wishlist!

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  2. Great- sometimes it's the little things that say the most :-)

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  3. How does this compare to ANGELA'S ASHES?

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  4. Good question, Rich. Main difference: I've heard some people say Angela's Ashes was too sad (I don't agree); I don't think that would be said of Faloorie Man.

    Angela's Ashes shows much more oppressive poverty and alcoholism, with a focus on how Frank keeps his fighting spirit through that adversity and eventually escapes Ireland. Faloorie Man's Martin, on the other hand, is from a family that's better off, but part of a politically and socially oppressed group. The focus of the story isn't so much escaping, but coming of age within his culture, and coming to terms with his family circumstances.

    Angela's Ashes takes place in the Republic of Ireland, while Faloorie Man is in Northern Ireland. Similar culture in many ways, but quite a different social climate for Catholics.

    Both have an aura of hope, both have the Irish dialect, and the authors share a dry, self-effacing humor and the ability to match the tone to the age of their protagonists.

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