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The Twelfth Day of July

Author: Joan Lingard
Series: Puffin Story Book
Edition: 1978 reprint
Published: Harmondsworth
Physical Description: 127p.
Notes: This book is the first of series of five novels by novelist Joan Lingard (1932-) exploring the relationship between Catholic and Protestant children in contemporary Belfast during the Troubles. The book, and the others in Lingard’s series, are important instances of exploration of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in young adult literature, as the events of the Troubles continued to unfold. Celia Catlett Anderson notes that the books were ‘extremely popular and widely used in school systems in Northern Ireland’ (Catlett Anderson 389), suggesting a significant use of contemporary literature in schools. The book is careful not to place blame specifically on either side of the Protestant-Catholic divide, and explores the culpability of both sides. The novel begins as the Jackson family prepare for celebrations of the twelfth of July which celebrates protestant William of Orange’s defeat of Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The following chapter contrasts the lives of the Catholic McCoy family, in a similar neighbourhood, only streets away. Kevin McCoy and his friends plan to go and daub ‘Down with King Billy’ on a mural in the Jackson’s neighbourhood. A notable aspect of the novel is the way in which the children are shown to absorb the rituals of hatred and intolerance from the adults in their lives. There is adult endorsement of their actions when their father hears of the act the next day and the children recognise ‘grudging admiration in his voice’ (32). The novel also explores issues of gender and the potential confinement of women within the domestic realm. This contemplation of gender divisions is seen particularly through the thoughts of Brede McCoy, who wonders if she wants to ‘carry on as her mother did’ (79). The narrative voice focalised through Brede goes on to note that Brede wants a life before and apart from family and domestic life: ‘She wanted something more. She wanted to work first, meet some more people’ (79). In a later discussion between Brede, her friend Kate, Kevin and his friend, equal division of child-rearing responsibilities between men and women is depicted as particularly ‘English’ and effeminate, as Kevin declares: ‘ “We’re Irishmen. You won’t catch us wheeling prams”’ (114). Such considerations do not seem to plague Sadie Jackson in the same way as they do Brede; Sadie is an athletic tomboy character, who is resourceful, strong-willed and careless and is not bound by domestic duties in the way Brede is. The novel ends with an image of reconciliation and movement forward, as Sadie and her brother Tommy decide not to march in the parade when Brede is seriously injured in a fight between the neighbourhoods. Instead, they spend the day with Kevin and his friends and they leave the city and go to the seaside for the day.
[Ciara Gallagher].
Catlett Anderson, Celia. “Born to the “Troubles”: The Northern Ireland Conflict in the Books of Joan Lingard and Catherine Sefton.” The Lion and the Unicorn 21.3 (1997): 387-401.
Subject: Religion, Moral, Gender, Genre, Representations of Nations and Nationalities, Protestantism, Catholicism, The Troubles, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Conflict
Language: English
Original price: n.p
Library: Church of Ireland College of Education
Collection: Bartlett Puffin Collection - CICE