These Days by Lucy Caldwell - review by Jude Cook

Jude Cook

Belfast’s Burning

These Days

By

Faber & Faber 288pp £12.99 order from our bookshop
 

Set during the Belfast Blitz of spring 1941, These Days focuses on the story of the middle-class Bell family, but it’s also about how a city survives when it suddenly finds itself under siege. While Belfast managed to avoid bombing at the start of the Second World War, it was laid to waste in May 1941, when up to a hundred thousand incendiary bombs fell, ‘more than in almost any other raid, anywhere in the United Kingdom’, destroying the docklands and killing hundreds. Caldwell vividly reimagines this horror, in which ‘fires rage, unchallenged, unchallengeable ... Rivers of burning margarine in the streets from a factory hit.’ The book is a paean to a city fighting for its life: ‘Belfast is finished, people say. There is no way we can come back from this.’

The Bells are mother Florence, GP father Philip, sisters Emma and Audrey and younger brother Paul, and the novel is narrated from the perspectives of the different family members. While Emma, an ARP medical warden secretly in love with another woman, is principled and calm, poetry-quoting Audrey is

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