Mystery and history come together in Jan Carson's latest novel
A terrible disease rages in the small Irish village of Ballylack. Out of a class of children, all but one, Hannah, die of it. This is the premise of Jan Carson’s latest novel, Il giorno del Giudizio (The Raptures). The Belfast-based writer won the EU Prize for Literature in 2019 with the book The Fire Starters and was shortlisted for the Dalkey Novel of the Year Award.
During the event, held in the Aula Magna of the University of Mantua, Carson confessed that The Raptures was partially inspired by the tale of the Pied Piper. In both stories the plot is set in a rural community and most importantly there is only one child left behind. The reader sees the politics and culture of Northern Ireland through the eyes of the young Hannah, narrator and protagonist of the novel. Carson's main goal with the book is to show the condition of children growing up in difficult, vulnerable environments, seeing things from their point of view.
Hannah's Ballylack is a community torn apart by war, poverty and religious segregation, harking back to The Troubles and the religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants that occurred during the twentieth century and that marked Carson’s childhood.
However, there are also several passages related to Irish myths and legends. As Carson explained, she has been fascinated by religious rituals and folk tales from a young age, and often includes them in her novels. The legend featured in The Raptures is that of the Raggedy Tree. In Northern Ireland, rags are tied on Raggedy Trees by people who believe that if a piece of clothing from someone who is ill is hung from the tree, the illness will disappear as the rag rots away.
The event was moderated by the writer Chiara Valerio.