When we first moved “Up North” I was interested to read any books which gave me a clue about what life here was like. I did read “Wife In the North” by Judith O’Reilly which was interesting and relevant to my situation to an extent, but found the fact that it was a collection of blogs meant that it was repetitive (she kept running out of petrol) and a little negative in terms of her experience of the local school. The last chapter is, however, incredibly sad, and should not be read by anyone less than emotionally one hundred per cent.
A more literary effort, but frankly brutal in places, is Crusaders, by Richard T. Kelly, a novel about an idealistic young priest, John Gore, who comes to live in Newcastle in 1996.
It follows his progress, or problems, and experiences in his endeavors to attract people to a new inner city church. Some of the local characters become instantly recognizable, others are more extreme, and it is an interesting examination of the problems of living and working in a challenging role in a particular and convincing setting. This is the part of the book which works for me best, although it is ultimately frustrating in many ways.
The other strand of the book is the story of Stevie, whose chosen life style takes him into the somewhat gritty parts of the North East. He becomes a local operator in the less salubrious parts of the area, and this is the part of the book which is much less readable for many reasons. The language is strong, the violence brutal, but sadly, has a ring of some realism to it. I do not know how representative is is of life then or now, but it is a challenging read.
I thought that this was a well written and worthwhile book. I would not recommend it to everyone, but if you can tolerate the basic bits, it is a fascinating picture of life, faith and real life in the North East in the Nineties.