When we think of Belfast, our mind instantly goes to The Troubles. It’s as if Belfast did not exist before this point but emerged fully formed as a war torn city. The reality is before the endless violence was a normal city, full of people going about their lives. A city and its people facing the same issues, experiencing the same things as any other peripheral city. Love, unemployment, radical plans for improvements. Belfast could pass for Dublin, Manchester, Liverpool etc.
This is the Belfast we see in The International. Set on one average Saturday in The International Hotel, the 28th January 1967 to be exact. The next day the Northern Irish Civil Rights Association would be founded in a function room in The International. The story follows Danny, a typical 18 year old working as a barman, his friends and the host of humanity who pass through the hotel.
Danny is a funny, relatable narrator who brings to live the host of characters who pass through the doors of The International. The characters we meet are familiar to many, representing that broad spectrum of city live.
There is a very poignant quote near the end which I think sums up what the book perfectly.
The city in these photographs is another place entirely, the mere passage or years cannot account for the sense of rupture