Book Review – The Troubles With Us by Alix O’Neill

What do you get if you mix Sex and the City with Derry Girls combined with the humour of Mrs Brown’s Boys? Well you get something like The Troubles With Us.

This is a coming of age memoir of Alix O’Neil and her mother’s life growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The 30 years leading up to 1998 were some of the toughest for a lot of residents both Catholic and Protestant. There were bombings, shootings, death threats and everything in between.

But as you can read in the book it wasn’t all doom and gloom, there were still fun times. But the underlying sense of potential danger always lurked around the corner especially around the Falls Road, the street which Alix grew up on.

I come from an Irish family, my dad is from Derry (Londonderry), and although the family moved away from Ireland when he was very young we still had a lot of family living in Ireland during the Troubles so I had to pick this book up as I am always interested in finding out more about this era.

During this book we hear about separate incidents during Alix’s life such as the Halloween shooting and the jam jar bomb dumped in her back garden. But we also get an insight into her childhood and teenage years, from sneaking out to clubs with her friends, getting drunk on cheap alcohol to young love and that feeling we have all experienced when it is unrequited.

My Thoughts

Alix writes with such tenacity and humour that you feel like you are experiencing every event first hand alongside her. You see her highs and lows and how she and her family deal with life and the challenges it throws at them. Spoiler alert- they experience a lot of challenges and they aren’t all related to the troubles.

I love her humour and how strong the family are. They treat each new attack or threat as just one of those things that happen, because let’s face it, back then these were a very regular occurrence so it wasn’t something new, but their courage to just carry on life and not let the fear swallow them up is truly awe inspiring and is certainly something we should strive for.

I first started visiting Northern Ireland back in 2000 and even then you would see soldiers near the barracks with automatic guns and murals in a lot of areas supporting one side or the other, usually depicting someone with a gun, or someone kicking down a door or a depiction of a big, dramatic event. Since then I have seen Ireland start to recover, the soldiers left and many of the murals were painted over and replaced with a memorial or a black and white depiction to signify the past. But it was really interesting to get an insight into Alix’s past and what life was like for the Irish living in Belfast during it all. I have heard many stories in the past from family members but I liked hearing about more events and the full timeline and evolution from the troubles to the modern day. The addition of humour and typical teenage issues helped to lighten the tone at times and the end result is a funny, yet serious depiction of life during the Troubles.

If you want to find out more about this era along with some laughs I highly recommend this book. It is a highly emotional memoir. At times you will laugh, you will gasp, you will cry and at other times you will be just dumbstruck with shock at how life was at times in the emerald Isle.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – a laugh out loud yet realistic impression of Belfast now and then. This is a raw portrayal of life in Ireland during the Troubles and will shock you as much as it makes you laugh.

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