Truth Be Told – Sue Divin

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having previously read ‘Guard Your Heart’, Sue Divin’s previous book, I was eagerly anticipating the release of this, her second book, ‘Truth Be Told’.

Tara has been raised in Derry City, while Faith lives in rural Armagh. When they come face-to-face, they realise they look almost identical and start to question if they’re connected. They have grown up in two different worlds, divided by politics, but question what they know about themselves and their true identity when confronted with each other.

In a powerful story where both girls begin a journey of self-discovery which uncovers truths they couldn’t have anticipated, Faith and Tara will invest the readers both mentally and emotionally.

To tell you more about the setting of her book, I have an exclusive guest post from Sue Divin herself, detailing why she chose each time frame for her books. I hope you enjoy reading her piece and gaining more insight, just like I did.

How Truth Be Told compares to Sue Divin’s début, Guard Your Heart and why they were set in their specific times frames 

Readers who enjoyed Guard Your Heart, should hopefully love Truth Be Told. They’re a similar style, but unrelated. Truth Be Told isn’t a sequel (I know. *sighs* *Apologises to everyone who fell in love with Aidan and Iona*) Do however expect that same dry wit, self-depreciating humour and voice that is the trademark of this wee corner of the planet – I still love characters who bounce off the page into your heart; and I still adore writing teen protagonists. Do expect a page turner. Do expect it to make you think.

Up front confession – whilst Guard Your Heart was primarily a Romeo and Juliet, Truth Be Told is more of a quest. I promise though, there is still sizzling romance woven in there too…

Another key difference is that, in some ways, Truth be Told challenges the dominant narrative / main story of Northern Ireland. Though Guard Your Heart showed the complexity of peace, it still fitted more or less into the ‘Catholics versus Protestants’ telling of Northern Ireland. That’s the story people are most commonly told of here (and possibly most comfortable with hearing) – it fits our box. In recent years across the world, more diverse stories and voices are being heard. In my book, that’s a really good thing. Instead of just the traditional voices saying, ‘This is the way it is, was and always will be’ other voices are rising to ask, ‘Is this the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?’ Truth Be Told digs into those other questions of here. Identity is diversifying and changing. Conflict issues are not always clear cut. Truth can be messy – and hard to hear.

For some reason so far, my novel writing tends to focus on a real context and timeframe. Perhaps that’s something subconscious in me wanting to chew through events and respond to them creatively. Or maybe it’s a way of capturing a story of where we are at. Truth Be Told is framed around a real timeframe in autumn 2019.

From January 2017 to January 2020, the regional government in Northern Ireland (Stormont, Belfast) collapsed. Politicians did not meet together there to make practical and policy decisions about everyday things such as health, jobs, justice, environment and education. They also failed to take decisions about more controversial issues, including abortion, same-sex marriage, Irish language rights and legacy issues from ‘the Troubles’, such as pensions for victims and survivors. In what other democracy would that honestly be seen as ‘OK’ or ‘normal’? For many ordinary people, it felt like no-one cared. Tara reflects on this and what it means to her family in places in Truth Be Told. The fallout from the Brexit vote also had a significant destabilising impact here on the peace process. It felt like there was plenty in that context to reflect on in writing.

Faith’s story is impacted by some other issues. In autumn 2019, the British government (Westminster, London) intervened. It said that if local politicians couldn’t form a government to sort things out, it would impose Human Rights legislation to decriminalize abortion and move to legalize same-sex marriage. In October 2019, this happened. Various scenes in Truth Be Told reflect this. In January 2020, Northern Irish politicians eventually reached a ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal and got back to work – just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

In June 2021, a ‘Troubles’ pension scheme finally opened, 23 years after the end of ‘the Troubles’. In July 2021, the British government announced plans to bring forward legislation to ban ‘Troubles-related’ prosecutions. People who suffered in ‘the Troubles’ may never get their day in court. Experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council have been very critical of this. So have victims’ groups. Would it seem OK in Great Britain if serious crimes including murder were automatically dismissed from courts just because they happened over 25 years ago? This legislation is still on the table at Westminster and is causing a lot of concern in Northern Ireland – but it’s rarely mentioned in national news. There’s something in there again about telling only the stories that ‘fit’.

If you like the sound of this book, you can buy it here.

Emily x

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