Read Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border by Colm Tóibín Online


Soon after the Anglo-Irish agreement, Colm Toibin travelled along the Irish border from Derry to Newry. In this work he tells of fear and anger, and of the historical legacy that has imprinted itself on the landscape and its inhabitants."...

Title : Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border
Author :
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ISBN : 9780330373586
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 193 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border Reviews

  • Barbara
    2019-01-20 11:38

    This book was originally published as Walking Along the BorderWalking Along the Border in 1987. It was republished in 1994 with a new title, and without the photographs. I suppose the new title was intended to draw readers interested in Northern Ireland, as well as to reflect that this book is more than a travelogue. Toibin, at the time he wrote this, was 32, living in Dublin, and working as a journalist. This was the first of three non-fiction books he wrote that could be categorized as "travelogues". The other two are Homage to Barcelona (1990) and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). This book, like other books that are ostensibly about travel, is a study of the history and people, including a few writers, along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Toíbin made his trip during the height of the Troubles.* Toíbin walked the border in order to see up close what it meant. Everywhere there were cement blockades, and other obstacles to stop traffic from using border crossings. Many (probably most bridges) were destroyed. This website features many interviews with residents along the border:íbin walked through rain, bad weather, British Army checkpoints, and at times hostile locals. It is understandable that the sight of a stranger walking through near empty countryside could be startling. At times, he walks miles through bad weather to a town that reportedly has a hotel, to find it has closed. Many local and small businesses closed during the Troubles. Sometimes it was after the closing of a bridge or border crossing meant that business dried up. Other times, they were victims of bombings or other attacks. The bridge crossings divided communities that had lived in harmony despite the border for decades. Some of the closings dated back to the late 1950's. a time when a decimated IRA carried on a fruitless "Border Campaign". Toíbin is skilled at befriending locals and gaining some trust. He interviews victims of atrocities, and in one interview, a survivor who has been reluctant to talk to the media over the previous ten years, opens up to Toíbin. In a couple of situations where strong sectarian suspicions freeze him out, he manages to befriend a key local resident who lets others know the Toíbin is OK. He also has friends living in the areas he is traveling who occasionally come to his rescue when he is stranded by bad weather, and/or in a place with no accommodations. In the age before mobile phones, and the internet, travelers were heavily dependent on the goodwill of locals. There were, of course, no local tourist offices to give advice. It was a "seat of your pants" way of traveling. Considering he was traveling through areas that were essentially "war zones", it was a remarkable journey. Toíbin, however, wasn't the first to write about traveling in Northern Ireland during these years. Dervla Murphy's remarkable book A Place Apart(1978) tells of traveling by bicycle through Northern Ireland, almost a decade before Toíbin.Toíbin's future as a writer of literary fiction is apparent in this book. On his visit to Enniskillen, he writes about the great writer John McGahern, who lived just south of the border, but as Toíbin writes" Enniskillen was sort of a capital for him". Toíbin goes on to write: He had written so well, so accurately, in such detail, about the world just south of the border that his work was almost more real than the places themselves. It was a time when the police had nothing to do except arrest cyclists for having no lights, when there were no cars on the road, when personal isolation and pain found no comfort in the monolith southern Ireland had become. This is a book for anyone interested in Northern Ireland, as well as fans of Toíbin. Highly recommended.* The other night at a reading by Northern Irish native Nick Laird, he was in conversation with a local writer who commented to me that he found it "interesting" that the 30 year war in Northern Ireland was referred to as "the Troubles", an understatement, to say the least.

  • Niall O'neill
    2019-01-17 10:34

    Reading this book now when Northern drivers flock to petrol stations in the Republic for cheap fuel (to stations which had little business at the time Toibin writes), while Southerners stream across custom-less, and checkpoint-less borders for cheap booze, makes it stark how much has changed in the two decades plus that have passed. But it also shows how deep the conflict ran. It is a book that all people from this island of Ireland should read.

  • Gerard
    2019-01-22 15:36

    Very good. A bit hard to follow at times as he assumes more familiarity with then-current (1986) events than is likely at this late date. His observational powers are phenomenal, so the travelogue portions are as affecting in their way the reportage from the border in the wake of Anglo-Irish Agreement. A real writer's piece of journalism in the best sense.

  • Cat
    2019-01-23 12:12

    Fascinating, earthy account of the everyday tensions on the Northern Ireland border in the late '80s. Unfortunately somewhat mystifying and meandering for the less historically knowledgeable reader. The most interesting thing was probably just how mundane the walk comes across when he is effectively walking in an ongoing warzone. Also made me want to read more on the topic of migrant fairs and the exploitation of Catholic workers by Protestant landowners, which had a clear legacy and role in the conflict.

  • Sean Kennedy
    2019-02-05 10:28

    This is an excellent book, but those readers who may not know the intricacies of Irish political and religious history may be confused and have to do a lot of Googling as Toibin assumes you know already.

  • Taylor Pandolfino
    2019-01-17 18:23

    Ireland has transformed since Colm Tóibín walked the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement marked a watershed moment in the official peace talks and provided the framework for the devolved system of government present in the North. Political violence between Protestants and Catholics has decreased dramatically since the bloodshed of the seventies and eighties. All told, the border is a safer, more secure place than when Tóibín made his documentary pilgrimage that informed Bad Blood. These developments should be celebrated.Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand Irish identity or twentieth century Irish history without reference to the Troubles, whose wounds have not been forgotten among the Irish. The sectarian violence propagated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the British Army, and the Ulster Volunteer Force scarred the country permanently and, in fact, experienced a resurgence of sorts when Tóibín wrote Bad Blood. Tóibín therefore helps the reader—whom, it should be noted, he assumes has a foundational familiarity with Irish history and politics—wrap her head around how, in an industrialized, developed, and otherwise stable western nation, petrol bombs and senseless murder wreaked havoc upon a mostly innocent population. His commentary draws heavily on the testimony of this population—Protestant and Catholic alike—who share with him their view of the conflict, their hopes, and their despair. “Protestants are being told that Catholics are the enemy. Catholics are being told that Protestants are the enemy,” a born-again minister from Darkley, whose congregation the Irish National Liberation Army once attacked, tells Tóibín. “The Devil is the enemy,” he concludes, evidently hopeful despite the deaths of three of his parishioners in that attack. Nearby, the words “Fuck the IRA” are written across the road. This is the kind of world Tóibín traverses on his pilgrimage.Tóibín is an excellent observer. He hails from the South, lives in Dublin, and identifies as Catholic; still, he maintains an admirably neutral stance in his conversations with a myriad of disparate interviewees. He is friendly with a local Sinn Fein politician as well as the dispossessed descendants of Protestant landowners, now living in the servants’ quarters of their grandfathers’ Georgian mansions. He speaks with Catholic priests, Protestant presbyters, new-money capitalists, poor peasants, and survivors of terrorist attacks. The result is a fairly comprehensive view of the sociopolitical state of the border at this tense moment in history. To be sure, it is a grim portraiture.Time and again, Tóibín reiterates how the Troubles have physically scarred the Irish landscape. Cement barriers with rusty metal spikes block once well-used roads. Bombs have destroyed the vast majority of border bridges, whose mere innards remain. In some instances, nature has literally consumed thoroughfares that cross the border. “At one point the road on the northern side had disappeared completely,” Tóibín writes. “The bog had folded over it, and it would never appear again, because it would never be needed again. The whole place was desolate now, depopulated, lonely; there wasn’t much need for these small roads.” Walls separate Protestant and Catholic communities. Watchtowers survey the nationalists in the fortified town of Crossmaglen. For Tóibín and his Irish compatriots, there is no end in sight. The future of their country is bleak—at least at that time, in those border communities.While the end of the conflict, in the strict sense of that term, may still be in front of the Irish people, Bad Blood is now more of a historical document than a journalistic one. I do wonder what Tóibín makes of the book today, and I also wonder what the Irish people who live at the border make of their current situation. It is quite easy to visit Ireland without a second thought for the thousands of people murdered during the Troubles. Should she avoid Belfast, the uninformed tourist may never notice the vestiges of what had at one point seemed like interminable sectarian violence. For the American visitor, which is the only perspective from which I am comfortable writing on this issue, Bad Blood serves as a corrective to such ignorance. While digging deeply, Tóibín treads lightly, and his simple, straightforward prose is well-suited to his austere subject.

  • Clare
    2019-02-07 17:24

    I DID NOT READ THIS BOOK, I READ "THE MASTER" WHICH IS SOMEHOW SHAMEFULLY NOT ON THE GOOD READS DATABASE.My first experience reading Colm Toibin. I was anxious to read him, and then discouraged that it took me five tries to get past the first paragraph. This might have been because the second best piece of writing advice I ever got was, "your reader has to trust you in the real world before you launch into philosophy and dreams" and "The Master" starts with a dream -- Henry James's dream, no less. I liked "The Master". I didn't love it. I suspect I would love other books by Toibin, but in reading "The Master" I realized I was reluctant to think of Henry James as a writer's idea of what he might have been and thought; and I was reluctant to think of Henry James as having ever existed at all. (Cruel of me.) "The Master" begins in 1895 with the premiere of James's failed play, "Guy Domville" and moves chronologically. Toibin is a masterful writer, but there were too many passages that seemed like historical glosses: "He [James:] understood the dilemma of a woman in an age of reform pulled between the rules of her upbringing and the need to change those rules, but also, and, he thought, more crucially, the dilemma of a woman [i.e. Alice James:] brought up in a free-thinking family which confined its free thought to conversation and remained respectable and conformist in every other way..."

  • Etha Frenkel
    2019-02-10 16:12

    I was curious to see how the Irish conflict compared to ours in Israel. On the one hand the same senseless violence: attack-revenge etc. etc. but yet it seems that the only difference between the two sides in Ireland is religion while there are no real language/cultural differences. Here the sides are divided not only by religion but by language and culture as well so it seems even more intractable. How depressing!!The book itself was interesting and very descriptive of the people and the countryside. However, I wasn't always sure whether he was in the north or the south and he didn't do a lot of explaining. (and I was too lazy look up the places on the map.) Slowly I was able to sort it out.

  • Frances Sawaya
    2019-02-05 14:38

    An interesting read for me as a blow-in living in Cavan about twelve miles from the border. Worth a read if only for the journalistic style and Toibin's insights to the centuries-old conflicts. These still go on but not at all with the danger, wickedness and unfairness of 'The Troubles.' In fact, I have many of my own stories of cross-border episodes, some funny and some scary. Quite a stylistic contrast to the other Toibin book I am also reading at the moment, 'The Empty Family.' More of that anon as I am about halfway finished with that one.

  • Kathryn
    2019-01-24 16:19

    Toibin is my favorite writer, and this is not his best in terms of narrative, but it was a really unique reaction to the Anglo-Irish agreement. And he is such a good writer that I would read his observations about paint drying.

  • Linda
    2019-02-14 11:22

    Colm Toibin writes poignantly of his walk along the Irish Border just after the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He describes vividly of the various conflicts with his usual grace and style.

  • Ipswichblade
    2019-01-22 13:40

    A depressing book however hopefully times have moved on

  • Madeleine
    2019-01-26 18:31

    Beautiful and smart writing, subtle snark, and a sharp but skeptical political favorite sort of book.

  • Roberta
    2019-01-22 14:36

    I love Toibin's writing. He always makes me think and he's never all sentimental or expected. I like his curiousity and his skepticism. And this gave me a better sense of the conflict in Ireland.