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Return to Killybegs

By: Ursula Meany Scott , Sorj Chalandon

Publication Date: April 2013

(5 customer reviews)


Return to Killybegs, longlisted for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Tyrone Meehan, damned as an informer, ekes out his days in Donegal, awaiting his killers.

‘Now that everything is out in the open, they will all speak in my place – the IRA, the British, my family, my close friends, journalists I’ve never even met. Some of them will go so far as to explain how and why I ended up a traitor … Do not trust my enemies, and even less my friends. Ignore those who will say they knew me. Nobody has ever walked in my shoes, nobody. The only reason I’m talking today is because I am the only one who can tell the truth. After I’m gone, I hope for silence.’

Return to Killybegs is the story of a traitor to Belfast’s Catholic community, emerging from the white heat of a prolonged war during the 1970s and 1980s in Northern Ireland. This powerful work, lauded by critics, shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt and awarded the Grand Prix de Roman de l’Académie Française, deals with a subject that touches a nerve for most Irish people: the all-too-human circumstances of betrayal and survival. It is an extraordinary and affecting read.

SORJ CHALANDON, journalist and novelist, spent formative years on assignment to Northern Ireland as a reporter for Libération during the Troubles. My Traitor (Lilliput, 2011), a prequel to this book, was first published to acclaim in France in 2007, winning the Prix Joseph Kessel and the Prix Jean Freustié.

URSULA MEANY SCOTT is a literary translator from French and Spanish. She holds an M. Phil in literary translation from Trinity College, Dublin, and her translations have appeared in two volumes of the Best European Fiction series to date.

‘French journalist Sorj Chalandon has gone where too many Irish writers fear to tread.’ – from the Afterword by Ed Moloney


‘There are beautiful characters in this novel, strong dialogue, digressions, rifts and retrospection.’ – Le Figaro Litteraire

‘Harrowing!’ – La Marseillaise

‘Moving and heart-breaking, Sorj Chalandon’s novel tells of a tragic saga – in this case the history of Ireland, that divided, wounded country. This is a book of profound humanity, marvellously written. With the words and tears of silence.’ – Le Nouvel Observateur

‘Amongst the most powerful of novels.’ – Les Echos

‘Superb … it’s as much a book on Ireland and her national tragedy as it is about friendship and love betrayed.’ – L’Hebdo

‘A relentless novel full of noise, fury, rain and sweat … The story is often upsetting, and utterly sublime.’ – Figaro Magazine


Also available as an ebook

5 reviews for Return to Killybegs

  1. Lilliput Press

    “Return to Killybegs, the mesmerizing story of a warrior and subsequent traitor to Belfast’s IRA during “The Troubles,” is a poignant, insightful expose of what fighting a guerilla war is really like. As an American with Irish parents, I’d heard snippets of conversation in hushed tones while I grew up about the hardships and war-torn strife they and my ancestors had endured for many generations. However, I never understood the depth of despair, resilience, and courage the Irish Catholics faced in the Northern Ireland’s ghettos until I read Sorj Chalandon’s book.

    I took my time reading the novel, looking at on-line maps and studying historical figures described in the story, in order to absorb as much as I could about what was happening during the war. It was interesting to read about how devoted the IRA women were to the war effort; standing beside and supporting their men – fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands – with fierce determination, like the ancient Celtic and Viking female warriors of Ireland’s past. One of my favorite lines in the book comes near the end: “Peace? Uninteresting. Hope is harder to sell than fear.”

    Although the main characters are fictional – but based on real people and events – I believe the story, with aspects of both thriller and memoir genres, provides important insight into what it was like to live the war for an entire lifetime. Wonderful, deeply emotional writing that kept me thinking about the book for days after I finished it. Highly recommended!” PATRICK ROONEY

  2. Lilliput Press

    “Quite an innocuous title for such a powerfully written and emotive story. Tyrone Meehan born and bred in Killybegs to his rise through the ranks of the IRA and his ultimate betrayal on the streets of Belfast.

    I don’t know a lot about this period in history, Ireland in the 60’s through to the 90’s, the time of the Hunger Strikes, Bobby Sands up until the Ceasefire This novel does give insight into that fascinating period of history.

    I found this a harrowing and disturbing read, the violence and hate and the unwillingness to compromise shown by all sides. The novel however is ultimately about the betrayal and the aftermath.

    I initially felt some sympathy for Tyrone but his justification wore thin by the end of the book. He betrayed his country, friends, family and I’m not sure that I bought into his reasons for doing so.

    Well written, emotive story, a harrowing story to read in places, it did pack an emotional wallop.”

  3. Lilliput Press

    “It’s hard to write a book on the complexities of war and that’s what this was, war. The Irish call it The Troubles which I guess is a nice way to make it sound not as bad as it was. To me, this was war. There were bombs and people dying, deprivations, prisons and just plain horror. In other words, war.

    Tyrone Meehan was raised in Killybegs, Ireland, and his father was a drunk and the meanest man in town. He beat his children and a donkey. A volunteer in the IRA, the father was consumed by his hatred of the British. Yet he was also a poet and Tyrone remembered being sent at age 7 to the pub to get his dad and would listen him to sing. “I was proud of him in spite of everything. Proud of Patrick Meehan, proud of that father, despite the marks from his brown belt across my back and my hair torn out by the fistful; when he’d sing about our land, heads were held high and eyes filled with tears.”

    After his father’s death, the family moved to Belfast with his mother’s brother, a chimney sweep. The stories of the prejudices and restrictions of the Catholics are heartbreaking and Tyrone joins the IRA at a young age unsurprisingly. What else is there to do? The story discusses his life and rise in the IRA in detail.

    It’s hard to be in the IRA. The British beat you often and sometimes for no reason. It involves prison sentences with the charges unknown and the term unspecified. The IRA’s protests were awful. They had hunger strikes and s*** in their own hands and coated their cells in it. Yuck. Of course they had limited resources so they made the most of what they had but still.” SUSAN JOHNSON

  4. Lilliput Press

    “If you want to know who your average terrorist/freedom fighter is and how they reached this stage in their lives, read this book. If you have ever wondered how they adapt to life after peace has been achieved, read this book (they don’t). If you want to know how alcohol can destroy a person, a family and a whole community, read this book. Simply the most challenging, worrying and gripping book I have read in some time.” A MOORE

  5. Lilliput Press

    “This is a challenging read but the author writes with a true understanding of life on both sides of the border during the troubles. It is hard to believe he is not Irish. One of the most gripping and powerful books I have read in a very long time.” NANA

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Weight 0.4 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm
Publication Date

April 2013





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