Painful Irish memories
By Patrick Taylor
Key Porter Books
Paperback, $19.95, 292 pgs.
Peace. Most humans enjoy this aspect of everyday life. Unfortunately for the citizens of Northern Ireland this concept is just another word in the dictionary and far from the realities it holds. Religious and political indifference followed by foreign occupation have weakened the spirits and hope of innocent children to the war-experienced elderly.
Only Wounded by Patrick Taylor attempts to deliver the message of everyday life in Northern Ireland through the eyes of Catholics and Protestants. Taylor chronologically writes from the eve of the troubles in 1969 to the present day and the failed peace process.
Taylor tries to give an unbiased view in each of his stories but it becomes apparent on what side of the fence he writes from. Writing as a native of Ireland, Taylor now resides on Bowen Island in Howe Sound and is a professor in the medical faculty of the University of British Columbia.
Only Wounded is presented as historical fiction but the short stories provide a weak account on the Irish conflict. Although several of the stories contain some intriguing ideas they are overlooked due to Taylor's impecunious literary style. From the beginning of each story the reader has figured the author out and knows where the story is headed making the finale very predictable.
Taylor provides 16 different short stories ranging from inter-religious marriage, Protestant and Catholic friendships, British control and informers, to mere sectarian hatred and ignorance. In four of the 16 stories, Taylor uses two focal characters, Pat a Protestant and Neill a Catholic. These two men share a friendship and debate constantly upon the issues of political, religious and sectarian differences.
One of the better aspects of the book is Taylor's ability in each story to dwell upon the personal struggles and conflict of his characters. How each character confronts the miseries of the troubles and the constant hope for many of one day emigrating across the ocean to a land of promise and peace.
For readers unfamiliar with Irish history, Taylor provides a chronological history in his introduction on the troubles dating back to Irish independence from England in 1922. He also gives short historical facts before and after each story. However, some of these facts Taylor offers fall prey to criticism and from simply being misinformed. For example, Taylor is getting sectarian divisions and neighbourhoods in Belfast confused and mixed up, Belfast being the focal setting in the majority of his stories. These simple mistakes debilitate Taylor's persona as an unbiased writer and question his intelligence and knowledge upon the Irish conflict.
The troubles that have burdened the Emerald island are a difficult task to grasp and understand. Both confusing and frustrating, writers have to expect this upon accepting such a literary task. One may have to suggest that Dr. Patrick Taylor concentrate more heavily upon his medical profession then the profession of adding fuel to sectarian differences.