The Raptures by Jan Carson: Marian Keyes on a brilliant Northern Irish tale

The story of an 11-year-old navigating a strange plague is full of wit, pain and wonder

Jan Carson has written a novel about faith – and its limitations. Photograph: Frankie Quinn

Jan Carson has written a novel about faith – and its limitations. Photograph: Frankie Quinn

It’s been wonderful to see so much great literature being written by Northern Irish women in recent years.The big ticket item was Anna Burns winning the Man Booker in 2018 for Milkman, but authors such as Susannah Dickey, Lucy Caldwell, Medbh McGuckian, Louise Kennedy, Wendy Erskine and Rosemary Jenkinson – to name just some – are producing great plays, short stories, novels and poetry in a mood that’s sometimes been described as “post-conflict”.

Jan Carson’s second novel, The Fire Starters, won the EU Prize for Literature Ireland in 2019. Her new novel, The Raptures, is set in Ballylack, a small town in Northern Ireland where it’s 1993 and Hannah Adger has just turned 11. In a village with “half a dozen other churches” Hannah is the only child from an evangelical charismatic sect. The summer holidays have just begun when the children in Hannah’s class begin to sicken with a mystery illness.

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