The Ghost Factory

Title: The Ghost Factory

Writer: Jenny McCartney

Publishing House: Fourth Estate

Date of Publication: March 21st 2019

Rating: 5 stars

‘’We called our situation the Troubles, and the longer it had dragged on the more fitting that genteel euphemism became. The murdering was sporadic but fully expected, like some recurrent, rumbling agony in your unmentionables. The populace soldiered on through it, mainly keeping their heads down and quietly hoping that splashes of terror didn’t land on or near them. In between shootings and bombs, there were businesses to be run and children to be raised. Things didn’t fall apart, quite. They kept on, but more painfully.’’

Belfast during the 1990s. The Troubles have left a deep scar on both communities. Despite the ceasefire, violence is still contaminating the air of the city. It has acquired new forms, its tentacles are still strong. Thugs invade houses to beat youngsters to death, to frighten and threaten women. The butchers on both sides turn against their ‘’own kind’’ to satisfy their lust for blood. A young man, who has lost his parents, witnesses the unrest without taking part or choosing sides. But he refuses to retreat and lower his head when his friend is attacked by a prominent Protestant gang. 

Sometimes you may think you are in the eye of the hurricane but chaos will always find its way to your doorstep…

‘’A woman is walking towards the bus after shopping in the city centre, when she suddenly remembers that her niece jas just given birth to a baby boy. Should she get a present for the baby tomorrow? Och no, sure she might as well get it today. She nips into a department store, and in that very instant a bomb explodes just inside the shop door and the woman is lucky, they tell her later, because the people right beside her die but she only loses her legs.’’

A beautiful, haunting story that doesn’t shy away from the terrors of the conflict but refuses to resort to cheap melodrama and graphic violence for the sake of it. Instead, Jenny McCartney writes a tale of hope, love and survival. A story that urges the reader to stand our ground and not let others – no matter how ‘’strong’’ they may seem – invade our lives and desecrate everything we hold dear. Narrated by a wonderful protagonist, written with elegance, and acute Irish humour, this novel is a fine example of perfectly – drawn interactions, vivid descriptions of Belfast in all its bleak, enticing beauty, and a deep understanding of the human soul that struggles to remain unnoticed, yet rises and fights for what is right when faced with unimaginable threats. 

Without a doubt, one of the finest novels about Northern Ireland and the Troubles.