Several recent novels have taken the Troubles as their theme – Anna Burns’s Milkman, Michael Hughes’s Country, David Keenan’s For the Good Times. Whether this is because the conflict can now be judged to be over or because that confidence is in question is difficult to decide, but The Ghost Factory ranks among the best of these fictions. It is a wonderfully large-souled book, even if its efforts to accommodate victims from both sides of the divide can feel a tad contrived. The plot creaks in the search for redemption, but there is a nobility in this too.
'We called our situation the Troubles, and the longer it had dragged on the more fitting that genteel euphemism became." So says Jacky, the protagonist in Jenny McCartney's debut novel, a powerful testament of damage and trauma set in 1990s Belfast. Jacky has never known peace in his home city, only a community divided and terrorised, where "the best way to persuade ordinary folks on the other side of the sincerity of your argument was to build a large stack of their corpses and promise more of the same until your demands were secured"... While the Troubles appear to be having a "moment" these days, we must remember that it's taken more than 20 years of peace to get this far. And as a private, intimate reflection on what it was like to live through the worst years of the violence, this novel is unrivalled.
Anyone who thinks Belfast was suddenly sweetness and light after the ceasefire should read this gripping novel, which exposes the way the paramilitaries continued to terrorise their own communities...McCartney’s liberal heart and moral decency seem to hold her back from what is so nearly an even more knife-edged story of murderous revenge, but the fear, the misery and the picture of a claustrophobic society are vivid and convincing.
This outstanding debut, written with flair and an all-pervasive dark humour, gives a deeply human face to Northern Ireland's Troubles. A timely reminder of the fragility of peace and of the senseless brutality of sectarian conflict.
Slackness at sentence level is the downfall of Jenny McCartney’s debut novel The Ghost Factory, a well-meaning tale that looks at the repercussions of sectarian violence on Northern Ireland’s civilian population... A combination of generic and overwrought description drags the narrative down. McCartney has a good flow and rhythm to her writing but many passages in the book lack restraint and fresh insight.
Friendship, loyalty, love and retribution are the stuff of this violent but emotional and touching novel with a cautionary sting in the tail. Jacky is a well-rounded character, torn between his future and what has gone before. He is given an authentic, engaging voice which pulls in the reader, with well-judged flashes of humour.