Unfortunately, we’re thinking a lot about the human costs of war right now. And Sue Divin’s Truth Be Told looks at a historic conflict–the Troubles in Northern Ireland–through the eyes of Gen Z. And even me, a millennial confused by TikTok and baggy jeans, loved it.
Being Irish-American, most of my knowledge of the Troubles really only comes from one side (and most books, movies, etc about the Troubles tend to focus on the IRA as well). There tends not to be much nuance in the fictional depictions–you’ll have to read Patrick O’Radden Keefe’s nonfiction book Say Nothing to get that–but Truth Be Told serves it up too. In a fictional book about teenage girls!
It focuses on Tara, raised by a Catholic single mother in Derry, and Faith, raised by strict Evangelical Protestants in Armagh. They meet at a residential camp designed to build friendships between sectarian groups, and realise they look identical–scarily so. The girls stay in touch as they try to figure out if they share a father, and in doing so learn a lot about the “other side” of the conflict that has shaped their lives and identities.
I know the phrase “both sides” is a bit loaded in American parlance, but it’s much more relevant here. Author Sue Divin has worked in peacekeeping/conflict studies, and it shows. The novel explores how the sectarian Unionist-Nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland had real, personal implications for all involved, and especially for women. I won’t spoil too much, but there is a lot of exploration on how sectarian groups limited women’s choices, in regards to bodily autonomy, jobs, and even who they loved. Simply put, this is a lot more than a YA book–it’s an essential look at the collective trauma of conflict and how we can break the cycle. Don’t miss this one!
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan for the ARC. TRUTH BE TOLD is out now in the UK.
RATING: 4/5 STARS
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