By: Kevin Maher
Dublin, 1984: Ireland is a divided country, the Parish Priest remains a figure of immense authority who commands absolute respect, and Jim Finnegan is thirteen years old, the youngest in a family of five sisters. Life in Jim's world consists of dealing with the helter-skelter intensity of his rumbustious family, taking break-neck bike-rides with his best friend, and quietly coveting the local girls from afar. But after a drunken yet delicate rendition of 'The Fields of Athenry' at the Donohues' raucous annual party, Jim captures both the attention of the beautiful Saidhbh Donohue and the unwanted desires of the devious and dangerous Father Luke O'Culigeen. Bounced between his growing love for Saidhbh and the abuse he receives at the hands of O'Culigeen, Jim's life starts to unravel. He and Saidhbh take a ferry trip to London for a clandestine abortion that has dark and difficult repercussions, forcing Jim to look for the solution to all his problems in some very unusual places. The Fields is an unforgettable story of an extraordinary character: Jim's voice leaps off the page and straight into the reader's heart, as he grapples with his unfairly interrupted adolescence, with the influence of the Church and with the divided loyalties that the Troubles have provoked. Lyrical, funny, profoundly original and endlessly inventive, it is a brilliant debut from a remarkable new voice.