Paperboy : An Enchanting True Story of a Belfast Paperboy Coming to Terms with the Troubles, Paperback Book

Paperboy : An Enchanting True Story of a Belfast Paperboy Coming to Terms with the Troubles Paperback

4 out of 5 (12 ratings)


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 rumours 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 neighbour fighting neighbour and brother fighting brother.

But in the midst of all this turmoil, Paperboy, a scrappy upstart with a wicked sense of humour 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 colourful characters of a very different - but very familiar - time.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Memoirs
  • ISBN: 9780007449231

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Showing 1 - 5 of 12 reviews.

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Review by

Newspapers nowadays seem to be delivered by adults driving cars, not neighborhood boys or girls tromping up and down streets on foot or riding on bikes and flinging the paper end over end to land on your doorstep early every morning. But in Tony Macaulay's memoir of almost two years of his life as a paperboy in the late 1970s, this cherished image of kids delivering the paper still stands. Macaulay was an almost 12 year old boy living in Belfast, Ireland when he won the coveted position of paperboy. This job gave him his own money and he took pride in doing his job. It was thrilling to be such a responsible kid. Along with his reminiscing, Macaulay has captured the everyday appeal of a happy childhood. Narrating from his pre-teen self's perspective, he remembers the obsession with fashion, music (specifically the Bay City Rollers), and girls. His observations are witty and entertaining and they are very Irish, with many of the colloquialisms and much of the slang likely to be unfamiliar to American readers. Macaulay grew up during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But by choosing to narrate his memoir from his childhood perspective, he manages to background much of the political atmosphere, religious divide, and violence. He was, of course, always aware of the danger and the fighting but he was equally aware of the thugs and bullies who would steal his paper route money from him if he wasn't ever vigilant. The book is told in self-contained chapters, which detail his loving family, the wants and desires of a kid in late 70s Ireland, his method of coping with the strife in his city, and his own pacifism. The tale is actually an ordinary one after all. There's not a whole lot driving the narrative; it's just snapshots of a young boy's everyday life. There are some hitches in the pacing and the occasional wrinkle in chronology but generally this was a funny and touching picture of the way people, and specifically kids, continue to live their lives even amidst a war.

Review by

I enjoyed this book very much it was easy and fun to read, I grew up in this time so I knew some of the terms and music the author is describing in his story.Maybe teenager from today don`t understand a lot of the terms but a quick search on the internet tells you about the Bay City rollers and "parallels" . I had to google some Irish words like tartan or "wee" . I learned a lot about the conflict in North Ireland and it is always interesting to read this from a standpoint of a teenager who actually lived through this and not the official political opinion. He jumps a little bit around in times but that was not a problem with me. Can`t wait to get his next book.

Review by

This is the memoir of the author's growing up in Belfast during the Troubles of the 1970's. While it was, of course, grim at times, it was also humorous, joyful, exuberant, and insightful.One remark of the author's, which I found particularly insightful, was how it seemed to him that the more peace walls were built, the more violence occured. (Not a direct quote.)I found this book a real pleasure to read!

Review by

This is the memoir of a young boy who lived in the Shankill area of Belfast in the mid-1970's at the height of the troubles. He describes his life as a pre-adolescent who experienced the culture of the times growing into his teenage years amidst the turmoil of that violent period. As a Protestant, Tony was aware of the presence of "paramilitaries" of the UVF and UDA and of the threats posed by the IRA. He certainly understood the sharp divide between the Protestant and Catholic communities. But, this is not a recollection of the political/social milieu of the times; it's more the world of family, school, neighborhoods and coming of age experiences as seen and understood by a boy on the cusp of his teenage years. The author captures the essence of the times, particularly of the pop culture that he and his peers related to. You get a real feeling for the working class world in which he lived, although it's plain that he's miles ahead of his peers in his intelligence and perspectives. I was interested in this book because I had lived in Northern Ireland in the early 70's (in Derry) and witnessed the violence that grew over the two years I was there. A frequent occurence was rioting with stone throwing and petrol bombs carried out by youth very close in age to Tony. I always wondered what were these kids really like and how much they were different from young people in America; how their lives were so different from the teenage years I had relatively recently gone through myself (I was then 22). One evening in a particularly violent span of time (the days right after the internment of suspected IRA terrorists by the British authorities) a bomb was placed outside the flat where my wife and I lived. It seemed clear that the bomb was not directed at us as the ground floor was a commercial establishment. It was reported that the bomb was placed by a very young boy although this was never shown to be actually so. The drift of these kids into violence (carried out methodically and much more viciously by adults) was appaling to contemplate. Although not a participant in the violence around him, Tony's life was shaped by needing to be cautious and living with the disruption to normal life that the violence brought.The book is full of pop culture references that would be familiar to anyone living in Northern Ireland in 1975, but are obscure to today's readers. Similarly, mentions of things like the "twelfth", the Maze and Provos would likely be unfamiliar to the general American reader.At times the recollections of a 12-year old boy seem somewhat refined by the insights of the adult who is writing them. Nonetheless, Macaulay certainly was an imaginative and perceptive child who had a more than typical vigor and enthusiasm for life.

Review by

Tony Macaulay spent his formative years growing up in the working class neighborhood of the Upper Shankill in Belfast during the Troubles of the 1970s. On the one hand, Macaulay's youth is typical. He's eager to follow his brother into an early career of delivering the nightly Belfast Telegraph, he wears the dreadful clothes that were all the rage during the 1970s, gets picked on by his brothers, lives to steal kisses from the lovely Sharon Burgess at the disco, and is in love with the Bay City Rollers, but in a totally "manly" way. On the other hand, Macaulay's youth is spent in a Belfast divided by Peace Walls, plagued by acts of terrorism afflicting everything from bus routes to phone booths, and is fiercely divided between Protestant loyalists to the British government and Catholic supporters of a united Irish Republic whose differences don't seem all that distinct to Macaulay or to us, for that matter.Okay, so the absolute best thing about <i>Paperboy</i> is that Macaulay is hilarious. I can't remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud so often. For this reader, humor is hard to hit spot on in a book. Many authors, I find I don't quite get their sense of humor or their efforts seem forced. Not so in this case. Macaulay's humor easily encompasses both the laughable foibles of his young career as a paperboy as well as the decidedly more serious points of living in a dangerously divided Belfast during the seventies. The easy hilarity in the stories of young Tony jumping fences in his coin-stuffed platforms and parallels to achieve paperboy seniority, waiting for the last guitar lesson of the night behind a girl whose parents were hoping for her to be the next Tammy Wynette (thereafter referred to as "Pammy Wynette"), and kicking a member of the Bay City Rollers as the only "manly" way of expressing appreciation for the band is the stuff laughing out loud is made of. Still extra giggles are reserved for the low income things that shouldn't be funny but are - like all the home improvement projects completed by his dad with supplies he "borrowed" from the foundry where he works and the many would-be affordable things purchased for a weekly fee from the Great Universal Club Book.<i>Paperboy</i> is an appealing book that's more about Macaulay's youth and career as a paperboy than it is about the Troubles that plagued the city of his childhood. That it deals with the Troubles as more of a sideline ever-present reality in young Tony's life rather than as a focus is more a blessing than a curse. Macaulay does a fantastic job of capturing his own childlike perspective in that he's learned to live with being searched for weapons when entering a store, expecting that milk bottles will soon become petrol bombs, and not being able to get home because paramilitaries are bombing buses and have vandalized every phone booth for a couple miles. The downside to dealing with the Troubles on the side, of course, is that if readers go into the book mostly ignorant of the conflicts driving the Troubles, they might well emerge similarly ignorant. Macaulay scores some points for how he successfully immerses readers in his life in 1970s Northern Ireland, but doing so perhaps assumes that readers understand more about recent Irish history than they do, and the conflict, which is probably more or less bewildering to people in the know is mind-boggling to the more ignorant. Macauley's book definitely gave me incentive to dig into the historical background, but some of the book might be lost on people who aren't interested in doing a little extra legwork to set the scene, so to speak. Overall, <i>Paperboy</i> is a laugh-out-loud funny read about one pacifist paperboy's childhood in the scary streets of 1970s Belfast. It's a childhood that might well remind you of your own in spots but for the bombs and the barricades, one that might inspire you to discover more Irish history, and might also remind you that we wouldn't all be so different from each other if we weren't hiding behind the real and imagined walls of the uncompromising ideologies we've created.

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