Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Read With Us: Trespasses

Last week Carole gave you a bit of background about our spring Read With Us book, Trespasses by Louise Kennedy. This week it's my turn. 

I don't think I'm giving too much away if I tell you that the book begins and ends in 2015 at an art exhibit. I haven't been able to stop thinking about several of the pieces that Louise Kennedy wrote about and was not surprised to find that there have been several exhibits on the Art of The Troubles. These have featured paintings, photographs, and sculptures, and I thought it might help if we were better able to picture some of the art referred to in the book. 

A sculpture looms large in Trespasses and the author thanks sculptor Bettina Seitz in her acknowledgments. Seitz has sculpted "ghosts" that she calls Ancestors and installed them on an island off the coast of Sligo. While these are not specifically related to The Troubles, I think you'll be better able to imagine the sculpture that Trespasses begins with after seeing a few of Seitz's ghosts. 

Another sculpture that was exhibited in the Ulster Museum's Art of The Troubles is the arresting "Woman in a Bomb Blast" by F.E. McWilliams. This description is from Art UK

'Woman in a Bomb Blast' is the largest of F. E. McWilliam’s 'Women of Belfast' series made between 1972 and 1974. These bronze sculptures of female figures, caught in an explosion, were McWilliam’s response to the bombing of the Abercorn Tea Rooms, Belfast, in March 1972 in which a number of young women were killed and injured. Although the source was specific, McWilliam considered these sculptures to be universal symbols of women as victims of men’s stupidity.

Another sculpture that is mentioned in Trespasses is Rita Duffy's "Veil". The description is from Art Fund:

Veil is a constructed chamber of six heavy prison doors from a defunct women's prison in Armagh. Within the doors are small viewing holes through which prison staff would have observed offenders. The gallery visitor is invited to peer through these holes into a blood-red interior, suspended with eighty glass tear droplets. the chamber is surrounded with salt representing shed tears.

Armagh Prison was the only woman's prison in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, and the prison population grew to over 100 women between 1972 and 1976. It was the site of many protests (hunger strikes and no-wash protests) by the prisoners and eventually closed in 1986. 

I hope this glimpse into some of the artwork in Trespasses will enable you to have a better mental picture in addition to Louise Kennedy's descriptive prose. Both the book and the artwork are alarming, arresting, and affecting. I hope you'll consider reading the book and will join us for the discussion on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at 7:00 pm Eastern time. 


  1. Oh, Bonny. These are even more incredible than I imagined! Thanks so much for doing the legwork and finding/sharing these images. "Women as victims of men's stupidity" . . . kinda says it all, non?

  2. Thank you for doing the research on the art and sharing these images and the information with us. I've only just started the book, but already I can feel the impact of these works in the context of the book's setting.

  3. This is just amazing, Bonny! Thank you for digging these out and sharing them! (I hope to be starting the book this week!!)

  4. Wow, wow, wow!! So powerful. Thanks for finding these and blogging about them Bonny. They are amazing!

  5. I'm reading the book right now. Thanks for finding the pictures.

    1. I would love to see some of these exhibits in person, but viewing them online was the next best thing. Louise Kennedy's prose was affecting and effective, and the art certainly adds to the book.

    2. I love that you found photos of these art pieces to share with us, they really do add to my understanding of the book and that time in history.


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