Title: Paperboy: An Enchanting True Story of a Belfast Paperboy Coming to Terms with the Troubles
Author: Tony Macaulay
Acquired Via: Publisher
Release Date: September 3, 2013
It’s Belfast, 1975. The city lies under the dark cloud of the Troubles, and hatred fills the air like smoke. But Tony Macaulay has just turned twelve and he’s got a new job. He’s going to be a paperboy. And come rain or shine - or bombs and mortar - he will deliver…
Paperboy lives in Upper Shankill, Belfast, in the heart of the conflict between Loyalists and Republicans. Bombings are on the evening news, rubble lies where buildings once stood, and rumors spread like wildfire about the IRA and the UDA.
But Paperboy lives in a world of Doctor Who, Top of the Pops and fish suppers. His battles are fought with all the passion of Ireland’s opposing sides - but against acne, the dentist and the ‘wee hoods’ who rob his paper money. On his rounds he hums songs by the Bay City Rollers, dreams about outer space and dreams even more about the beautiful Sharon Burgess.
In this touching, funny and nostalgic memoir, Tony Macaulay recounts his days growing up in Belfast during the Troubles, the harrowing years which saw neighbor fighting neighbor and brother fighting brother. But in the midst of all this turmoil, Paperboy, a scrappy upstart with a wicked sense of humor and sky-high dreams, dutifully goes about his paper round. He is a good paperboy, so he is.
Paperboy proves that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times; it is a story that will charm your socks off, make you laugh out loud and brings to life the culture, stories and colorful characters of a very different - but very familiar - time.
Paperboy is Tony Macaulay's memoir that describes his experiences as a paperboy for the "Belly Telly" (Belfast Telegraph) in the 1970s during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Though it did not seem like a book that I would want to read initially, I decided that I wanted to give it a try after some thought. I had a very dear friend from Northern Ireland, and my fond memories of him tipped the tables in favor of Paperboy.
My knowledge of the religious atmosphere in Northern Ireland prior to reading Paperboy was limited and a bit biased because of my aforementioned friend who was Catholic. My name was always "goddamn Proddy" when he was drunk (in the most loving way), and that should tell you something about the stories that he told. Paperboy gave an interesting contrast to those as Tony in the majority being a Protestant, but he was a bit put down at the Belfast Royal Academy (BRA) for being working class and from a bad neighborhood. However, none of that really has much to do with the book except for serving as a backdrop. Things were terrible, people were awful to one another, and the streets were tough. Tony shows us in Paperboy that despite all of this, he had a happy, mostly carefree adolescence and experience as a "pacifist paperboy".
It was refreshing to read about a normal child having a happy time in the face of the dystopic gloom and doom that is so popular in literature right now, and Northern Ireland during that point in history was terrifying. My friend's brother-in-law watched his father get blown up in his car in front of their house as a child there, and Paperboy is a stark contrast to those horrors. Tony's story is a funny one, with tales of juvenile mishaps. (Never put Brut on your jimmy joe.) There is a lot of talk about Doctor Who, Top of the Pops, and the Bay City Rollers. It's good to have a book sometimes that reminds us that people are going to be people in the face of awfulness, and humanity does its very best to lead the most normal life possible.
My only hangups with the book are the chronology skips around some, and there is a little drag in the pace from time to time. Other than that, I found the book to be an enjoyable read.
If anything relating to (Northern) Ireland and history is your cup of tea, I recommend Paperboy. Readers of memoirs will also enjoy reading about Tony Macaulay's antics growing up. Though memoirs generally aren't my favorite form of non-fiction, I was pleased, and I will be on the lookout for more books by Macaulay.
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About the Author
Tony Macaulay is a Northern Irish writer and peacebuilder. He grew up at the top of the Shankill Road in Belfast at the start of thirty-five years of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland. This experience has shaped his life. Tony has spent the past 25 years working to build peace and reconciliation at home and abroad, working with hundreds of youth and community groups to break down barriers of mistrust, hatred and division.
Since the publication of his first book, Paperboy, Tony has been invited to do book readings at a range of festivals including the 1st Irish Festival NYC, Aspects Literature Festival, Edinburgh Book Fringe, Belfast Book Festival and 'Scribes at the West' at Féile an Phobail. In February 2011 he enjoyed his first book tour in the USA with the Celtic Cultural Alliance, Lehigh and Desales Universities in Pennsylvania. In 2012 the WB Yeats Society of New York presented a reading of Paperboy in the National Arts Club as part of the 1st Irish Festival. The film rights of Paperboy have been picked up by Titian Red Pictures, producers of the award winning Song for a Raggy Boy. The sequel to Paperboy is entitled Breadboy, and it will be published by Blackstaff Press in Spring 2013.
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Thanks to the wonderful people at HarperCollins, I am able to give away a copy of Paperboy to one lucky reader. Be sure to enter to win on the Rafflecopter form below.
Ends on September 13th
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an digital copy of the book for reviewing purposes from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected the outcome. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.