Author: Tony Macaulay
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Number of pages: 285
First line: I was a paperboy.
Goodreads blurb: It’s Belfast, 1975. The city lies under the dark cloud of the Troubles, and hatred fills the air like smoke. But Tony Macaulay has just turned twelve and he’s got a new job. He’s going to be a paperboy. And come rain or shine – or bombs and mortar – he will deliver…
Paperboy lives in Upper Shankill, Belfast, in the heart of the conflict between Loyalists and Republicans. Bombings are on the evening news, rubble lies where buildings once stood, and rumours spread like wildfire about the IRA and the UDA.
But Paperboy lives in a world of Doctor Who, Top of the Pops and fish suppers. His battles are fought with all the passion of Ireland’s opposing sides – but against acne, the dentist and the ‘wee hoods’ who rob his paper money. On his rounds he hums songs by the Bay City Rollers, dreams about outer space and dreams even more about the beautiful Sharon Burgess.
In this touching, funny and nostalgic memoir, Tony Macaulay recounts his days growing up in Belfast during the Troubles, the harrowing years which saw neighbour fighting neighbour and brother fighting brother. But in the midst of all this turmoil, Paperboy, a scrappy upstart with a wicked sense of humour and sky-high dreams, dutifully goes about his paper round. He is a good paperboy, so he is.
Paperboy is a humorous, delightful, and realistic memoir, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tony Macaulay has a terrific sense of humor, and a keen insight into human nature. I loved his descriptions of the people he remembered during those years, from the newsagent Oul’ Mac, to his rival newsboys and his first love, Sharon Burgess. He puts his reader on the streets of Belfast along with him.
I have read many books about the Troubles – both fiction and nonfiction – from the Irish Catholic point of view, and so it was good to get the Protestant perspective. I had no idea how awful things were in Northern Ireland in the 1970s: buses being bombed and bus lines closed down, people being frisked for explosives when entering shops, soldiers on the street day and night.
The heart of Paperboy, however, is young Tony himself. He is spunky, smart, and determined to be the first pacifist paperboy in Northern Ireland. The questions he has about why the Catholics are treated a certain way, why the soldiers treat him the way they do, reveal the ingrained bigotry and hatred that existed at the time – and I’m sure still exists in pockets today. During Tony’s years as a paperboy, he discovers girls, begins to form his political opinions, and becomes the best paperboy Oul’ Mac has ever had. The book ends with the end of his newsboy career, and I am pleased to see that he has written a second memoir about the next phase of his employment – and life: Breadboy.