Friday, May 27, 2022

The Twelfth Day of July by Joan Lingard

Title: The Twelfth Day of July: A Novel of Modern Ireland
Author: Joan Lingard
Publication: Thomas Nelson, hardcover, 1970
Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Setting: Belfast, Northern Ireland, 20th century
Description: Sadie and Tommy are Protestants, Kevin and Brede are Catholics – they live just a few streets apart but attend different schools, shop in different stores, and have different attitudes about the forthcoming July celebration. Irish Protestants celebrate the Glorious Revolution on July 12th which commemorates Protestant King William of Orange's victory over his father-in-law, Catholic King James II. Sadie Jackson’s family is eagerly decorating the houses on their block with flags and bunting; in the forthcoming Orange parade, Sadie is going to be a drum majorette in a purple velvet costume and her brother Tommy is going to play his flute with the Lodge pipe band. 

Kevin McCoy and his friend Brian have taken a dare – to leave the Catholic neighborhood, go to the Protestant area after dark and paint “Down with King Billy” under one of their murals. Sadie sees them from her window, chases after them with her brother, and catches up with Kevin as he slips and falls, although he escapes. They begin a series of practical jokes, which require dangerous forays onto each other’s turf, recognizing they might be friends under other circumstances, until things go too far and someone gets hurt.
My Impression: Can Protestant Sadie and Catholic Kevin get along, even if their neighborhoods are bitter enemies? Lingard grew up in Belfast and her affection for the city is obvious as describes the crowded streets and tired parents, the way a neighborhood suddenly shifts from Catholic to Protestant, and the weary police who have more urgent things to do than untangle a teenage squabble.  I read this five-book series many years ago but had forgotten about it until I considered going to Belfast (I just wish my friend Angela were going home to visit her family at the same time). While Sadie and Kevin are the hot-tempered, irrepressible stars, there are appealing secondary characters, including his sister Brede:
“Where’ll it end, Kevin?

“When one side admits defeat.” He stood up. “And that side won’t be ours.”

“You never give in, do you?”

“Why should I? This is a matter of principle. We’re defending our religion, Brede.”

Brede sighed. “Maybe that’s just an excuse. You don’t have to go around writing on Protestant walls to be a good Catholic.”

“You’re a pacifist, that’s what.” He went inside.

“It’s not a dirty word, is it?” she called after him.
Brede realizes right away that Kevin is enjoying the rivalry with Sadie because he loves a good argument and conflict. She also knows that the excitement he likes leads to trouble. Trouble also seems to follow Sadie around – for example, when she tries to make money selling chips so she can buy decorating supplies, she nearly burns down her family’s home. When she is caught defacing the McCoys’ kitchen table she runs away and has to spend the night hiding in a trash can.

With some books these days, you get near the end, only to find a cliffhanger or no definitive ending at all, because the author has decided the book is launching a series, and book 2 is not usually published yet. Here, the reader is glad to realize it’s a series because we want to know more about Sadie and Kevin, although we are already sure their parents will not approve of this friendship!
This interview with Joan Lingard states that the Kevin and Sadie series has sold over one million copies. It also reveals that she loved Enid Blyton, the Chalet School books, and Biggles growing up. Of course, I now want to reread the whole series.  Have you read it?

Source: My library used to have many of Lingard's books, but they are gone; I had to get this via ILL from Bridgewater State.  One funny thing about this book where everyone is fixated on being Catholic or Protestant - no mention of attending church, just the backdrop of the Troubles.


Lex @ Lexlingua said...

No, I haven't read it! But the mention of Enid Blyton, even in passing, is sure to appeal. Anybody who loves/ loved Blyton (and Anne of Green Gables) is just fine in my opinion, haha. :) ~Lex

Helen said...

I read Across the Barricades years ago and wasn't even aware that it was the second book in a series until after I'd finished it. I kept intending to go back and read the first one, but never did. Thanks for reminding me!

Katrina said...

I didn't realise that this series existed, it sounds interesting especially as this one was published just as 'The Troubles' kicked off in earnest. We visited friends in Belfast as soon as the army retreated from the town and you could go to the shops without going through a turnstile. The atmosphere was very strange though and it still felt dangerous.

LyzzyBee said...

I loved this story as a teenager - I read the copy that's first in your illustrations and it took me right back - must have had it from the library, and the other ones. It taught me about the Troubles, really.