Felicity McCall says her new book, ‘The Pigeon Men’, is the most demanding thing she’s ever written. It may well be her best work to date. ‘The Pigeon Men’ takes a compelling look at sexual abuse and the life changing impact of that abuse.
The narrative switches between the present, in Derry, and the early 1970s, in a village in Northern Ireland. The narration alternates between first person (the present) and third person (the past) to tell the story of Carrie. We meet her as an outwardly successful, professional woman in her early fifties who is drawn time and again to the public gallery of her local Crown Court when alleged sex abuse cases are being heard. Through her silent observation, she relives and tries to rationalise her own abuse at the hands of her grandfather some forty years earlier, and how it, and the secrecy surrounding it, has defined her life ever since.
In this brave and sincere novel, local writer McCall doesn’t shy away from the truth of abuse. The raw and honest scripting of the cowardly acts visited upon Carrie in her grandfather’s pigeon loft show the depth with which the writer has tackled this most difficult of subjects.
‘The Pigeon Men’ is a novella which developed from one of the short stories intended for McCall’s 2011 collection, ‘A Pitying of Doves’. In her career as an author and arts facilitator, McCall has worked with victims of abuse. Their opinions, she says, matters most.
“Some of the people who’ve talked to me in the past felt like it was honest. That is all the validation I need,” she says.
Carrie’s tale is emotionally honest. It is most honest in the fact that even Carrie herself does not fully realise how much the abuse has impacted on her life. That is the biggest triumph about this stunning piece of work. The story moves at a very genuine pace and gives the reader the time necessary to understand the main character. Vitally, McCall handles the character of Carrie the child with great skill and sensitivity. That difficult part of this very real story is told with an intelligence and understanding clearly acquired from having devoted the necessary amount of time to dealing with the human beings behind this subject matter.
Less experienced authors might have sensationalised and not taken the time to establish an emotionally honest character. This is not the case with The Pigeon Men. It excels as a piece of fiction which has remembered at every turn how important it was to remember the true and harrowing stories behind the hugely challenging subject of abuse. Don’t miss Sunday’s Journal for a full interview with Felicity McCall about ‘The Pigeon Men’ and an exclusive extract from the book.
The Pigeon Men is published by Eve (an imprint of Guildhall Press) and is currently on sale at £5.95 from local bookshops.