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Alternative Facts

Linda Anderson
Herself Alone in 0range Rain, by Tracey Iceton, Cinnamon Press, 396 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1910836767 Herself Alone is a telling, not a retelling, for the simple reason that, seemingly, no one has before dared to tell this story. Author’s Note Tracey Iceton, a Teesside-based novelist, is working on the completion of a trilogy of novels called Celtic Colours. The first is Green Dawn at St Enda’s (2016), featuring Finn Devoy, who fought for Irish independence. The second is Herself Alone in Orange Rain (2017), whose narrator is Devoy’s granddaughter, Caoilainn, a prominent IRA activist during the1980s. The third novel will be set in the ’90s. The author has published two essays outlining her background research as well as her intentions and methods in the making of Herself Alone in Orange Rain: “Troubles Women” and “Researching the Facts, Writing the Fiction”. She claims to have achieved both originality and a strong ethical approach to her subject in two ways. She has attempted to write a “compelling novel” which gives a “credible account” of the experiences of a woman volunteer in the IRA, avoiding the stereotypes and various forms of demonisation or diminishment of previous fictional portrayals. She uses real events in her narrative, adhering closely to recorded facts. She also uses real people, including Mairéad Farrell, one of the three activists shot dead in Gibraltar in 1988; Brendan “Darkie” Hughes, operations officer for the IRA throughout the ’80s; and Patrick Magee, the so-called “Brighton Bomber”. She has used the thriller genre, which hardly bodes well for an innovative perspective. The “Troubles thriller” became a dominant and maligned genre from the start of the conflict; Eve Patten called it one of the most profitable industries in Northern Ireland. In 1995, Bill Rolston complained about Northern Ireland being used as a poaching-ground for the fiction writer in search of a plot: It’s got macho-men with guns, it’s got beautiful virgins running around, falling at the feet of macho-men with guns, it’s got chases, it’s got bombs, it’s got all you might want … Thriller writers are roaming the world trying to figure out somewhere they can pounce, parachute in, and Northern Ireland is perfect. There is no doubt that Tracey Iceton is on to something important in her desire to render a portrayal of a female IRA volunteer in a way free from stereotyping and sexism. But has she been able to breathe new life into the Troubles thriller genre?…



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