Title: Across the Barricades
Author: Joan Lingard
Published by: Hamish Hamilton, England
Publishing year: First published in 1973
Pages: 174 pages, parted in 20 chapters.
A short summary of the novel
Sadie and Kevin meet each other again after 3 years. They become very close friends, but their parents doesn’t like that they are seeing each other, because of the reason that she is a Protestant and he is a Catholic. Everyone has something to say about their relationship.
Sadie’s brother and Kevin’s sister doesn’t mind that they are seeing someone with another belief, but when they notice how this can hurt Kevin and Sadie, they start to doubt. Neighbours start to talk, and their friends turn their backs to them.
Everything seems to go the wrong way for Kevin and Sadie. One day Kevin and Sadie runs into Sadie’s old geography teacher. He is very kind to them, and lets them meet each other at his place. Sadie starts to work for him, and she soon finds new friends in him and some of his neighbours.
This novel tells us about how difficult it is to live in a world filled with barricades. It is not easy to have a boyfriend who is Catholic, in a place where Catholics are hated (or the opposite way). Sadie and Kevin gets to experience that. The walls at Sadie’s home becomes destroyed by drawings, and so does the walls on Mr. Blake’s house. Kevin is beaten up several times, and they both loose their jobs because of their love to a person with another belief. The few friends they still have left, is threatened, and Kevin is almost put in jail, because of a gun that didn’t belong to him.
This is the story about being young in a difficult time. Should Kevin and Sadie give up their love, because of the problems it caused? Did they have any choice?
Sadie and Kevin are the main characters in this novel. Here are the most important characters.
Sadie Jackson is a 16 years old girl, who lives with her brother, Tommy, and their parents in a protestant neighbourhood of Belfast. She is a hard working girl, who knows what she wants.
Mr. (Jim) and Mrs. (Aggie) Jackson are Sadie’s parents. They only wants the best for their children, but doesn’t see that they are doing something wrong when they dislikes that Sadie is seeing a Catholic boy. Aggie doesn’t like her neighbour Mrs. Mullet, but she is friendly to her anyway. That shows that Mrs. Jackson not is rude. They are Protestants.
Tommy Jackson is Sadie’s brother. He likes Kevin and Brede, and supports Sadie when she needs it. His girl friend, Linda, is very fond of him, but if we read between the lines, we can obviously see that he doesn’t like her.
Kevin McCoy lives with his huge family, which consists of his parents and his 8 brothers and sisters. He has to help his parents a lot with taking care of his brothers and sisters.
Mr. (Pete) and Mrs. (Mary) McCoy are Kevin’s parents. They have 9 children to take care of, so they have to work a lot. They live in a house in a Catholic part of the town.
Brede McCoy is Kevin’s sister. She is very nice, and likes Sadie, but she thinks it is dangerous for them to see each other.
Mr (Twinkle) Blake was Sadie’s old geography teacher. He is very kind to Kevin and Sadie, and lets them meet at his house. Sadie also gets a job cleaning the house. He gets into a lot of trouble by helping them.
Moira Henderson is Mr. Blake’s neighbour. She is Catholic, but has a Protestant husband, and is therefore to a lot of help when Sadie wonders how this will end. Sadie sometimes baby-sits Moira’s three children.
Here are some of the minor characters:
- Linda Mullet - Sadie’s old school friend, and Tommy’s girl friend. She is described as a bit evil, because she hates Catholics.
- Mrs. (Jessica) and Mr. (Bill) Mullet is Linda’s parents. They are friends with the Jackson family. Mr. Mullet is in the Orange Lodge with Mr. Jackson.
- Steve - Tommy’s friend from schooldays. He is keen on Sadie, but she doesn’t like him.
- Mrs. McConkey - An old woman who owns a shop in Sadie’s neighbourhood. Her shop is bombed, and she dies.
- Kate Kelly - She is Brede’s friend. She likes Kevin, and they live in the same street as the McCoys.
- Mr. and Mrs. Kelly - Kevin works for Mr. Kelly, and Mrs. Kelly is a friend of Mrs. McCoys.
- Uncle Albert - Kevin and Brede’s uncle. He is a bit weird.
- Brian Rafferty - An old friend of Kevin. Threatens and beats up Kevin because of his friendship with Sadie. He is the one who almost makes Kevin go to jail.
- Mr. and Mrs. Rafferty - Brian’s parents, and neighbours of the McCoys.
The story takes place in Belfast in Northern Ireland. The city seems to have been parted in two separate areas, where one of those areas is for Catholics, and the other for Protestants. The two main characters live in each of these areas.
There has been fighting in both of these places, and we are repeatedly told about gunfire and bombings throughout the book.
Northern Ireland has for long been the scene of struggle between the Catholic minority and the Protestant minority. This is a struggle that goes so far back as the 16th century. This conflict has obviously taken its toll on the citizens in Northern Ireland as we can see in the novel. We can also observe the citizens blaming their problems on each other. The Protestants blame the Catholics and vice versa. As it appears, all this hostility has lead to the partition of Belfast and very much unease among the residents.
I would guess that this story is set in the 1950’s or 70’s, but it could really have been anywhere in the time after the car was invented, since this seems to be the only invention that is mentioned in the novel. The story could really be set anywhere in time and place, because of the universal theme, which is true love, threatened to be ruined by circumstances that the two main characters can’t change.
The main theme is a very well known one. True love is threatened to be destroyed by circumstances that the two main characters can’t change. This theme is used in films, novels and on other ways all over the world.
In this novel the love is threatened by a war between two religions. It shows how powerless one can feel when a war is ruining everything around you.
The title "Across the Barricades" can be interpreted on several ways.
We are told about the barricades on the roads in Belfast, and Kevin and Sadie walks through one of them. This is maybe the easiest way to understand the title.
Another way, is the barricades between Catholics and Protestants in peoples minds. People have sort of a locked attitude, which prevent them from putting the hatred of the past behind them and live in peace.
The story tells us about what happens when two people, Sadie and Kevin, cross these barricades.
We can say that the moral of the story is that true love will survive everything!
The author has used a lot of direct speech in this novel. Because of that, we do learn something about the characters through the way they speak. We can see that some of them fast gets angry, and that some stays calm all through the novel. The author has also been great at describing the characters and different places where they go.
There are some places where you can read things between he lines. It is not very important things, but it gives you a better general impression.
The Author - Joan Lingard
Joan Lingard was born in Edinburgh in 1932, but grew up in Belfast, and stayed there until she was eighteen. She began writing when she was eleven years old, and has never wanted to be anything else than a writer.
In 1986 she received the prestigious West German award, Buxthuderbulle, for "Across the Barricades".