“He was a man who considered himself easygoing and of gentle good nature, but it was not the sort of gentle good nature that had stood up well, even once, to being tested.” – Anna Burns, No Bones
What does a fractured people, in a fractured society, in a fractured family, in a fractured person look like? It’s not pretty. Although Anna Burns tells the story from the perspective of the snappy brightness of a youthful protagonist, with all of its dead pan and unintended black humor- the story is brutal. The coming of age tale takes place in Ardoyne, Northern Ireland circa 1960-90.
“There’s ignoramuses and there’s ignoramuses, it seems.”
Ach, poor Amelia. Poor poor Amelia. The world is mad and the accident of birth has brought her into the full frontal epicenter of the insanity. The incredible thing that Burns leaves the reader with, besides a numbing trauma, is the feeling that the crazies are not to blame. There is a point far beyond blame. Every one in this book is a victim of this tragedy we refer to as human life. Whywhywhy? At a certain point nobody even bothers to get out, get better – can’t remember if there is such a thing anyway.
The sickness of oppression is fatal to all sides. Burns’ story stands witness to the bare bone of a truly disturbing life. Amelia’s story reminds us that if you get to the bare bone too often – soon enough, there are no bones left.