The Fire Starters by Jan Carson

In January the Tasting Notes Book Club pick was ‘The Fire Starters’ by Jan Carson. As you all know, I do not read any blurb, so I did not really have the faintest idea what to think about this book.

As I started the book, I have to admit I was not really sure what was happening; there seemed to be two completely unrelated stories taking place – only connected by being set in Belfast. However, as the stories continue of two main characters, Sammy and Jonathan, you realise that they in fact have quite a lot in common, and a similar story to tell. These men are both dealing with their relationships with their children; they are both men who love their children but are also troubled by them, almost in fear of them because of who they have become – or who they may become.

Sammy is a man who fears that his past character has become that of his sons. Sammy was a man who was actively involved in the violence on the streets of Belfast during the height of the Troubles (which we must acknowledge have not ended), and he is worried that this has led his son to become involved in a new wave of incidents in Belfast. Is he really responsible for the decisions his son has made? And is he the only one who can stop him?

Jonathan’s new daughter is magical or cursed, depending on Jonathan’s feelings on any given day. But can he do something that many would think is unthinkable to protect people from his daughter?

As I reached the end of the book, I understood a lot more about how these two apparently individual stories were similar, and how they brought a richness to the novel I may have missed when I first started reading. This is a book that I may not have chosen to read, but I am glad that I have discovered the beautiful writing of Jan Carson. And I do have my eye on reading ‘The Raptures’, as that is another book that sounds incredibly intriguing.

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