“But there is promise. You can see a new year from here. If you squint hard enough it’s possible. I suppose, for some, there are good things to come, like sun and rain.”
I’m not a big fan of crime fiction. That’s a bit of a lie. I’m a massive fan of Agatha Christie and Inspector Morse and all those old-fashioned crime shows currently re-running on ITV3. When it comes to contemporary crime fiction I’m not quite so enthusiastic. So, when I heard that Kelly Creighton’s debut novel was going to be crime fiction, I was filled with trepidation. When your friends write books, you’re duty bound to read them and when they’re not very good, (or not the kind of book you particularly enjoy reading), it’s hard to find honest but reasonably encouraging things to say. I had no need to worry about The Bones of It.
Technically this novel might well be classified as crime fiction but it’s so much more than that. It’s a beautifully penned and piercingly insightful character study of both Scott, (the novel’s young and very troubled narrator), and his father, Duke whose character, or perhaps more accurately, lack of character, is revealed to the reader in slim sections as the plot unfolds. The descriptions are perfectly apt; this is a Northern Ireland I instantly recognised, and it was incredibly refreshing to read a local novel set in a provincial seaside town rather than Belfast city. These are characters I wanted to spend time with whether they engendered feelings of empathy, sympathy or, in the case of Duke, cold, hard, loathing. And this is a plot which unfolded subtly, flicking backwards and forwards between time frames so it was only in the final sections of the novel that the whole story came deftly together. As a debut novel, it is extremely accomplished.
However, what I liked most about The Bones of It was its honesty. This is part of the new wave of fiction coming out of Northern Ireland where the stories are set against a post-Good Friday backdrop. The Troubles is present but not glaringly so. The political tension is still inherent in this story but it is not the novel’s focus. This is a difficult tone to maintain and Kelly does it masterfully. It is both a conflict novel and not a conflict novel and all the better for being bother. Above all else The Bones of It is first and foremost a book which deals with familial relationships and the strains which bad decisions, illness and grief will put upon them. It is a story about consequences and the legacy left by one generation to the next. This works as well in the macrocosm of Northern Irish culture as it does in the details of Scott’s troubled family. It is, as the quote above suggests, both hopeful and despairingly honest about the Northern Ireland we are now living in and how it will shape up in the years to come. The Bones of It is well worth a read and a good think. I’m looking forward to see what Kelly does next.
The Bones of It is published by Liberties Press and available to buy from their website www.libertiespress.com