Friday, 8 April 2016

Divorcing Mum / 33rd County by Jerome Griffin

Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What We Thought:

Two powerful and disturbing shorts which peel back civilised fa├žades and confront some ugly truths behind Irish/British culture. Griffin's voice is angry, articulate and occasionally, to great effect, vulnerable to optimism.

Divorcing Mum is a many-layered tale of love (or the lack of it), predestination in the eyes of others, and the meaning of loyalty; whether that means friendship, nationalism or self.

Our narrator is the result of a rape and therefore an outcast. To his mother, his very existence is a painful reminder of the assault, particularly as he (apparently) looks like his father. And the fact that he's alive reminds her of the other great betrayal.

Jack has a plan and uses all his intelligence to do the right thing for both of them - him and his mum. His fight is rigged, but the reader sympathises, understands and rages with him in his frustrations. Many of the dead-ends he encounters are due to the conservatism of his culture and the iron grip of the Catholic church. The very people who forced his existence on the world.

This is a furious, passionate and touching tale which feels like the first act of something bigger. I hope that will prove to be the case.

 
33rd County is set in a police interrogation room, the story filled in by flashbacks. A bored but politically conscious office worker, numbed by the banality of political awareness in his colleagues, writes an idealistic blog. It's a joke. He knows it can't happen but part of him wishes it could.

His words touch a chord with others, less armchair revolutionaries, more political activists. Before he knows it, he's the spokesperson for movements he despises, his subsequent posts incite anger and drive wedges into the social cracks, widening them into chasms.

Under interrogation, we see how O'Sullivan's online persona has moved from being a mask behind which to hide to a spotlight, thrusting him onto the activist stage. He can insist on it being all part of the craic, but the results are all over the news. The riots, the deaths, the civil war.

The tension in the small room and big ideas are part of the skilful way this short, intense experience unfolds. An uncomfortably believable portrayal of a man who spoke his mind only to find his mouth forcibly shut.

You'll like these if you enjoyed: Gift of the Raven by Catriona Troth, God's Instruments by Wayne Price and the short stories of Kirsty Logan.

Avoid if you dislike: British/Irish politics, social injustice, violence.

Ideal accompaniments: A Bloody Mary, tough dried meat and Sinnerman by Nina Simone.

Genre: Short stories, Contemporary

Available from Amazon

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