Local rather than international, the dramas and privations described in this memoir are not the stuff of headlines. This is the story of an ordinary boy growing up in Belfast after the war; an ordinary boy who would go on to become world-famous as a hostage in Beirut and author of the extraordinary testimony of imprisonment and survival that was An Evil Cradling.
Brian Keenan has captured the vanished world of 1950s Belfast in all its vivid vernacular and grey, post-war austerity. I'll Tell Me Ma is an affectionate story of a disaffected childhood. At the centre is a shy, self-conscious boy of unusual moral integrity; a boy puzzled by religion and sectarianism, in love with books and music and full of curiosity about the world outside. It is also a book about coming-to-terms with the past: a resounding, thrilling record of redemption.