I had to keep reminding myself as I was reading this Booker Man award winning novel, that it was not an autobiography. Written in the first person, this novel describes a period in the life of an eighteen year old girl living in the divided community of Belfast during the political Troubles of the 1970's. The author is so adept at revealing the thoughts, emotions, actions of her characters and how living in a closed community with its own rules and controlling forces affects them. She also is very good in capturing the Irish way of speaking which is a reminder that the novel is set in Ireland, not in some imaginary dystopian land created by the author. What surprised me was the attitude of the characters towards their own paramilitary groups, recognizing them as terrorists yet sorrowful when they died as often they were their own boys.
Through the interactions of her main characters with those in the community, the author skillfully shows the age-old political and religious conflict that had been evident for centuries between the two groups - the Irish and the British. Since the story is told from a female perspective with little physical action/adventure, but much suggestion of violence, I think this novel would appeal more to female than to male readers.