Communities encouraged to share love of literature with ‘One Book’

Barney Norris author picture    credit Jay Brooks provided by the publisher
Barney Norris author picture credit Jay Brooks provided by the publisher

Libraries NI is encouraging enthusiastic readers from all over Northern Ireland to come together to read the same book this month - Turning for Home.

The aim of the exciting new literary initiative is to bring communities together by giving them a shared experience of reading. Whether in work or at home, One Book NI is all about coming together and starting conversations.

The One Book NI chosen title is Turning For Home written by award-winning English author Barney Norris.

His first novel, Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain, was a Times bestseller, and Turning for Home, his second novel, is a compelling, emotional story of family, human frailty, and the marks that love leaves on us.

The book is centred around the birthday celebrations of family patriarch Robert, who doesn’t feel in the mood for celebrations, as he relives his role in Northern Ireland’s peace negotiations, and the struggles faced by other members of his family.

Barney visited Northern Ireland this week, travelling the country to meet readers who have picked up a copy of his book and joined in with the project. “This has been the most amazing opportunity and I jumped at the chance to take part,” he revealed.

At its heart Turning For Home is the story of the struggles of one family. However, the story is brought close to home with the backdrop of the Boston Tapes, a project aimed at providing an oral history of the Troubles, featuring strongly throughout.

“This book is quite political and touching on the politics as an English writer is interesting,” he continued, ”It offers a lot of talking points to get people reading,

“I didn’t worry about the reaction I would get because I did a lot of research and tried to be responsible in the way I used the history in my own story, From an English perspective, the legacy of Northern Ireland is massively under-acknowledged in England and that is a huge problem and lessons aren’t being learnt. What struck me about the Boston Tapes was that it was a really amazing way to capture the voices of the people.”

Barney admits he has only been to Northern Ireland briefly in the past and has enjoyed having the opportunity to spend time travelling around the country and meeting people who have reacted strongly to his book. “This has been a great week to see a lot of the country,” he continued. “We have been to town after town and it has been a whirlwind. I have met a lot of readers who have engaged with the story in a really interesting way and no-one has shouted at me about it yet.

“I have absolutely adored the way I have been able to hear from people and get their feedback. I feel like I have met this incredibly intelligent community of readers and it has been a wonderful experience. Personally speaking, I went into writing to try to do this, to set up a group of people and talk about ideas. It has been the greatest experience.”

Barney is hoping that this won’t be his last visit to Northern Ireland, and plans to return later this year to meet the people behind the Boston Tapes, who reached out to him just last week. “I know that I will come back over at the end of the year,” he revealed. “The people who set up the Boston Tapes are really keen to met and I am delighted to have that opportunity.”

Pleased to welcomed Barney to Northern Ireland for the launch of the One Book initiative, Jim O’Hagan, Libraries NI chief executive said: “There is something very special about the idea of people from all communities across Northern Ireland coming together to share their love of literacy. Through One Book NI, Libraries NI is encouraging people to take a step back from their busy daily life and immerse themselves in a literary world. I would invite everyone to take part including members of the community who may have yet to find their love of reading and those who have been away from reading for some time, to take this opportunity to begin again.”

For further information and to join the conversation, visit your local library or go online at www.onebookni.co.uk.