Summary and book reviews of This Human Season by Louise Dean

This Human Season

by Louise Dean

This Human Season by Louise Dean X
This Human Season by Louise Dean
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2008, 384 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

An affecting and well-researched depiction of the political and social strife of Northern Ireland in the winter of 1979.

November 1979, the height of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. Kathleen Moran’s son Sean has just been transferred to the hypersecure H-block in Belfast’s notorious Maze prison, where he soon emerges as a young but important force in the extreme protest, known as the Blanket, that political prisoners are staging there. John Dunn is also newly arrived at the prison, having taken on the job of guard—a brutal but effective way to support a house and a girlfriend, the domestic dream.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, no one’s dreams go untroubled. As rumors of a hunger strike begin to circulate, Louise Dean’s pitch-perfect novel places two parents, two sons, and two enemies on a collision course that ends in a surprising and deeply resonant climax.

1

When the soldiers came the time before, the father went off with them. He had the same name as his son, so he went in his place. After a few days he was released. Their son was far away by then, down south.

This time the son was in prison and they didn’t want the father. So what could the father do, except stand in the front room, in his underpants, hands in the sagging pockets of his cardigan, watching the soldiers moving back and forth between the front and back doors of his home.

He was trying to think of something to say. His children and his wife were sat about in their nightclothes; they weren’t looking at him.

‘Yous think you know it all,’ was what he’d told them up at Castlereagh, the interrogation centre, when they’d come to realize their mistake. The first day they’d had him hands against the wall, legs apart, and when his knees weakened they’d shouted at him or kicked him. He’d not had anything he could tell them. Nor had...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Set against the real-life events of the period, the two primary story-lines never fully meet; instead they contrast each other, grimly showing the futility of the many wasted lives and the day-to-day realities of life for the everyday people on the front line, entrenched in their opinions but far removed from the political decision making process.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review (985 words).

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Media Reviews

The Daily Telegraph
Although John and Kathleen never meet, Dean weaves together their lives so skilfully that you feel no sense of disjointedness ..... The one obvious weakness in the book is the dialogue which, though generally sound, is scattered with clichés .... it is a shame to see an otherwise masterly novel punctuated by moments of laziness.

The Guardian (UK)
Dean is an audacious arrival in British fiction. She is unafraid to tackle unsexy or unsafe material, or to stray beyond the domestic sphere. With the difficult second novel, so often a disappointment, she has significantly upped the stakes and succeeded. Where This Human Season could easily have been earnest or preachy it is funny and humane. And — most refreshing of all — Dean is only noticeable in her narratives by her conspicuous absence. We will undoubtedly be hearing more from her.

The London Times - Lucy Hughes-Hallett
In her second novel, Louise Dean has moved from the private sphere to the political, but she has taken with her the assumption that ultimately all human relations are personal, and that to lose sight of that fact is to become dangerously inhumane. This Human Season, as sympathetic as it is sorrowful, joins a long and illustrious tradition of storytelling, reminding readers that in any conflict the enemy, however hideous a horde when seen collectively, is made up of individuals with their own motives and relationships and — in many cases — regrets.

The London Telegraph
That an English woman born after the Troubles began should take one of its most grisly episodes - the "dirty protests" in the Maze prison - as the focus of a compelling family drama is ambitious to say the least. That she should pull it off with such compassion and perceptive detail is nothing short of astonishing.

Publishers Weekly
Dean writes strong characters and provides a sympathetic rendering of both sides of the conflict, making for a powerful and memorable novel.

Library Journal - Barbara Love
Dean uses crystalline prose to paint both sides of the conflict with an equally tender and sympathetic brush. Not for the squeamish but highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
This grim story is told with sharp wit and sharper love. Readers who manage to leave Dean's worlds of East and West Belfast without a bitter sympathy for bothsides of the grinding Ulster conflict are in dire need of heart transplants. Not a wasted moment in this terrifying and terribly funny book.

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Northern Ireland (map)

  • English involvement in Ireland began around 1170 when Dermot Mac Murchada, King of Leinster (one of 4 Irish provinces) asked for Henry II's help to return him to the throne from which he'd been ousted (for more about Henry II see sidebar to The Serpent's Tale above). Henry (great-grandson of William the Conqueror of Normandy) invaded but in the ensuing battle Dermot died and Henry named himself Lord of Ireland.
  • Over the next couple of centuries English expansion was consolidated, with many of the Norman lords marrying with locals and thus, over the generations becoming indistinguishable from the Irish.
  • ...

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