These Days by Lucy Caldwell: vivid story of Belfast Blitz

Review: Destroyed city brought to life by award-winning author

Belfast Blitz aftermath 1941: clearing up after a German bomb attack. Photograph:  Ullstein Bild/ via Getty

Belfast Blitz aftermath 1941: clearing up after a German bomb attack. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/ via Getty

Lucy Caldwell’s new novel is set during the Belfast Blitz: four German airstrikes in April and May 1941. The first, known as the Dockside Raid, saw strategic targets hit with few casualties. “Cognisant of how much worse it could have been, people are calling it, dismissively, or sometimes proudly, our wee raid”, writes Caldwell. It was shortly followed, however, by the Easter Raid, which led to 900 deaths – the greatest loss of life in a single night outside of London.

A Belfast native now based in London, when Caldwell sits down to write, “all else falls away”, she has said. “It’s Belfast I’m writing from.” Her 2007 debut novel, Where They Were Missed, was set during the Troubles. It was followed by the 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize-winning The Meeting Point, a story of Irish missionaries in Bahrain, and All the Beggars Riding (2013), about a girl in London who discovers that her father had another family in Belfast. Caldwell’s most recent publications have been short story collections, Multitudes (2016) and Intimacies (2021), which includes the 2021 BBC National Short Story Award winning All the People Were Mean and Bad.

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