A Son Called Gabriel
McNicholl’s first novel, set in the hills of Northern Ireland in the turbulent 1960s and 70s, is a coming-of-age novel listed as fiction/memoir. It tells the story of Gabriel Harkin, the eldest of four children in a working-class family, struggling through a loving yet often brutal childhood. Growing up in a decidedly Catholic Ulster community, Gabriel struggles to come to terms with his inner demons and find his place in an unstable world. The reader sees Gabriel grow from a child through to young adulthood and can sympathize with his desire to be accepted as the person he knows himself to be.
The book is a good read, although at times it felt a bit clichéd and rather obvious. One subplot involving an uncle provided great suspense and a sense of purpose to the book. The outcome of Gabriel’s life was almost a foregone conclusion, but the suspense of his uncle’s involvement is what kept the book going.