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Northern Spy: A Novel de Flynn Berry
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Northern Spy: A Novel (edició 2021)

de Flynn Berry (Autor)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
1468148,871 (3.64)8
Títol:Northern Spy: A Novel
Autors:Flynn Berry (Autor)
Informació:Viking (2021), 288 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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Northern Spy de Flynn Berry

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This book was a disappointment.

Tessa Daly, a young divorcee and mother of a young son, works as a news producer for BBC News Belfast. She discovers that her sister Marian is a member of the IRA after her involvement in an armed robbery. Wanting her son to grow up in a safe Ireland, Tessa agrees to help her sister who convinces her that she is in fact working to achieve peace. Tessa’s involvement brings her into contact with dangerous militants and into taking part in actions that are morally compromising.

Much of the focus is on Tessa’s internal conflict: what should she do? Since her priority is the welfare of her son Finn, she asks herself, “would a good mother take Finn away from this place, or keep him close to his father? Would a good mother work for peace, or stay away from the conflict? Would a good mother be preoccupied with terrorism during every minute she has spent with her son this week?” Her notions of right and wrong, her bond with her sister, and her loyalty are tested. She becomes more and more disoriented as she struggles with what to do to protect her sister and her son and to help create a peaceful Ireland.

I had several issues with this book. One is the setting. Tessa, the narrator, begins by stating, “My sister and I were born near the end of the Troubles. We were children in 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed” yet the Ireland she describes is very much pre-GFA. Not all issues in Northern Ireland have been solved, but the novel exaggerates the state of violence; the political climate and extensive sectarian violence the author describes are more appropriate to pre-1998.

Another problem is that the conflict is over-simplified. In the opening pages, Tessa says, “The basic argument of the Troubles hadn’t been resolved: most Catholics still wanted a united Ireland, most Protestants wanted to remain part of the UK.” There is no real effort to capture the complexities of the conflict. It didn’t surprise me to learn that the author is not Irish but an American whose understanding of the situation is superficial.

There are many improbable events. Cameras capture Marian’s face before she puts on her mask prior to a robbery. This is the behaviour of an experienced IRA member? Once Marian is identified as an IRA member, her family would be under police surveillance, so having the IRA try to recruit Tessa makes no sense whatsoever. Marian is known to police but she still manages to keep meeting her sister in public locations? And don’t get me started on the novel’s conclusion: there are just so many holes in the resolution. The IRA wouldn’t know the identity of Tessa’s ex-husband who shares custody of Finn? The author certainly has little understanding of how police and intelligence operate certain programs.

It seems that Flynn Berry wants to portray the realities of life in Northern Ireland and the difficult choices faced by those living there, but she is disrespectful and does a disservice by both simplifying the conflict and exaggerating the violence. I should not be surprised that the novel was chosen by the Reese Witherspoon book club; like many of the book selections, there is a lot of hype and much less substance.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog ( and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Oct 13, 2021 |
I gobbled this book down. I was on the edge of my seat most of time that I was reading it. At the same time, I appreciated the descriptive passages of the countryside of Northern Ireland.

Tessa works as a producer for the BBC in Belfast. She is only recently back at work after taking maternity leave to have her son. She looks up during the segment she produces to see a news clip about a robbery at a gas station and is gobsmacked to recognize her own sister, Marian, as one of the people pulling a balaclava on before the robbery. The police say the robbery was done by the IRA. Tessa is sure Marian was forced into taking part so she cooperates with the police hoping they will find Marian. However, the police know that Marian has been working with the IRA for some time and reluctantly Tessa admits that Marian has hid things from her. When Marian finally seeks her out in a secluded spot she confirms that she has been an IRA supporter for a number of years. She also tells Tessa that recently she became a double agent, passing information on to her handler in MI5 in the hopes that there will be a peaceful end to the Irish/English turmoil. She asks Tessa to funnel information to her handler because she is in hiding and can't meet anyone outside of Tessa and her mother. Tessa thus has to pretend to support the IRA as well and soon she is taking part in IRA operations. The tension builds and builds.

Having visited Northern Ireland in 2019 I could quite easily visualize the country side Berry described. I am happy to say that we didn't notice any signs of IRA violence although we did get stopped one day driving back to our cottage because the Orangemen were parading. So there is still religious tension there and probably always will be. ( )
  gypsysmom | Sep 24, 2021 |
"It's difficult to know how scared to be. The threat level is severe but then has been for years."

Bodies can still be found in bogs, searches are conducted to find informers the IRA had disappeared, at certain funerals, men in ski masks would suddenly appear in the cortage, chamber their handguns and fire shots over the coffin. This is how many people lived in the Belfast area, wondering daily if there was a credible threat.

The story focuses on two sisters. Marian and Tessa. Marian is not married and has been a paramedic for over six years. Her face is always so open and bemused while her sister Tessa's expression tends to be more grave, her having to reassure people she's not worried about anything.

Tessa is divorced and mother of a 6 month old boy named Finn. She works at the BBC in Belfast and is asked by some friends how she can work for the English. She went to university at Trinity College is a program reporter, working with political guests.

We start with Tessa narrating and learn Marian is on a vacation to swim and explore caves in the north. Neither Tessa or her mother can get ahold of Marian but they assume she's in cellular dead zone or simply having fun exploring.

Then a robbery and raid happen at a local gas station the news anchor asks for help identifying those responsible. Tessa stares at the images of the terrorists and suddenly sees her sister's face on screen, Marian pulling a black ski mask over her face. Tessa's world dissolves.

The only negative in this narrative is the description of The Troubles as if it's a current situation. Perhaps I missed the time frame in this book but it had the feel of being set in present time or a few years earlier. The plot appears to be during the height of the violence and near the peace agreement which would put it around 1994, right? That being said, I loved the book and couldn't put it down.

I see why this is a best seller with over 3,400 four star ratings. I plan to read all of Flynn Berry's novels in the near future. ( )
  SquirrelHead | Aug 24, 2021 |
Northern spy, Flynn Berry, author; Katharine Lee McEwan, narrator
The novel is about two sisters. One, Marian, becomes a terrorist, unbeknownst to her family. For years she has led a double life. She is a terrorist with the Irish Republican Army, (the IRA). The Irish rebels
do not want to be a colony of Great Britain, but rather they want freedom to become a socialist republic. Marian is not only a terrorist with the IRA, but secretly, she is also an informer for the British. She is hoping to help bring about a cease fire and an end to the years of constant fear and violence. Her sister, Tessa, has recently been divorced. Her husband was disloyal and had an affair with another woman. She has an infant, Finn, 3 months old to whom she is totally devoted. The family is Catholic. They were caught completely unawares when Marian was identified as a terrorist.
Tessa works for the British Broadcasting Company, (the BBC). Marion is a paramedic. Their mom does domestic work. When Marion’s secret life becomes public, Tessa and her mom’s life is thrown into upheaval. Marian begs Tessa to help her inform since Marian is no longer able to safely contact her handler. No one will suspect Tessa if Marian gives her messages to take to him. The British have promised to extract her sister if there is the slightest danger. Supposedly, she has a tracking device in a filling in her tooth which she can use to signal them if she is in danger. To save/help Marian, Tessa begins informing the British. It isn’t as simple as it seems, though. Soon, the IRA also solicits her help, help she cannot refuse to give without putting Marian in danger, once again. Because the sisters are so close, suspicions will rise if she hesitates. She is expected to support Marian and the IRA. Now she is also a terrorist.
Their lives are getting more and more compromised and complicated. What will happen if neither side continues to trust them or if law enforcement begins to suspect their secret double lives? Tessa’s position is untenable. She cannot back out of either situation without arousing suspicion. She fears for her son, as well. Tessa is now also hoping that a cease fire happens quickly so that she can be free of the secretive and dangerous life she is now leading.
The IRA is very powerful and everyone is afraid of them. You cannot cross them without being severely punished, beaten or murdered. They seem to have spies everywhere. The novel is about the desire for freedom and independence, about secrets and deception, about betrayal, but also loyalty. However, to whom does one owe loyalty, family, the terrorists, the British, or simply oneself? Do any means justify the ends? Innocents are often caught up in the morass.
Although there are moments when credibility is doubtful regarding the outcome of certain events, the novel is mostly well written and seemed historically accurate regarding the Irish fight for independence, the formidable power of the IRA, the Catholic/Protestant conflict, and the desire for independence and religious freedom regardless of the brutal consequences. Both the Irish and the British used coercion, betrayal and reprisals to maintain their influence and power during the conflict.
I found it difficult to determine the exact timeline since the only measure was the progression of Tessa’s child, Finn, as he grew older and more independent, but the terrorism described actually did take took place and there was an eventual cease fire. The religious struggle and the struggle against colonialism coupled with the portrayal of the Northern Ireland Catholics vs. Ireland’s Protestant population feels authentic. The narrator does an admirable job reading the novel with the right amount of emotion and accent depending on the situation. The narrator creates an atmosphere of the times with all the stress and unrest that is palpable. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jul 31, 2021 |
Tessa Daly, a BBC political program producer, and her sister, Marian Daly, a paramedic, become involved with the IRA and MI5 in Belfast. Tessa is surprised and dismayed when she sees her sister on television robbing a gas station in the company of two IRA members. She has a very young son, Finn, and is newly divorced from Tom. Trying to take care of her son as a single mother, keep up with her work, and help her sister by serving as a conduit for information from the IRA to MI5 becomes very stressful and dangerous. ( )
  baughga | May 23, 2021 |
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