Bad Blood : A Walk Along the Irish Border, Paperback

Bad Blood : A Walk Along the Irish Border Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


In the summer after the Anglo-Irish Agreement, when tension was high in Northern Ireland, Colm Toibin walked along the border from Derry to Newry.

Bad Blood is a stark and evocative account of this journey through fear and hatred, and a report on ordinary life and the legacy of history in a bleak and desolate landscape.

Toibin describes the rituals -- the marches, the funerals, the demonstrations -- observed by both communities along the border, and listens to the stories which haunt both sides.

With sympathy and insight Bad Blood captures the intimacy of life along one of the most contested strips of land in Western Europe. 'Toibin has the narrative poise of Brian Moore and the patient eye for domestic detail of John McGahern, but he is very much his own man' Observer 'High-class reportage ...Toibin was conscientious about talking to real people, not just "names" with a good line in TV chat, and went to see and hear and sense things at a local, grassroots level' Irish Times


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Social groups
  • ISBN: 9780330373586



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Colm Toibin is better known for some of his recent novels. In this travelogue (for want of a better phrase), the novelist walks the length of the border between the British-governed province of Ulster and the Republic of Ireland in the South. He travels -- sometimes unknowingly -- between North and South, zig-zagging back and forth to capture the views and experiences of Catholics and Protestants on both sides of the border. He has an eye for the obvious -- the camouflaged British soldiers he stumbles over in ditches, for instance, and the giant markings on the roads that signal to helicopters when they can't fly any further south without crossing the border -- as well as the smaller human details, such as the family who didn't learn of the marriage of one of the sons of their closest neighbors for several years, because the latter lived on the other side of the border. When one of the people he encounters remembers being worried about having his house torched by the IRA during the hunger strikes at the Maze prison in the early 80s, the local police point out to him he has nothing to worry about, since his Protestant ancestors bought the land (vs being given it by the English government or expropriating it) --back in 1732. Memories are long, Toibin reminds his readers... One interesting element to me was the extent to which Toibin (originally Catholic, from the South) is obviously far more comfortable interacting with even extremist Catholics than ordinary Protestants (he feels self-conscious in a Protestant-owned hotel; is the guest of Sinn Fein in a Catholic region) even as he obviously deplores the sectarianism. While this was written in the early 1990s (and while the visible conflict has abated) it won't be until that inner hyper-consciousness dissipates that the Irish "Troubles" will really end. I found myself thinking back to my own trip from Co. Leitrim to the North, and the still-visible signs of sectarianism -- and my nervous Catholic driver who really would rather have been on Mars. A glaring omission in my Picador edition: appallingly, there is NO MAP! I know the geography, but not in such detail that I could follow Toibin's route. Still, highly recommended, especially to those interested in/familiar with recent Irish history.

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