REVIEWS OF SO IT IS:
Shades of Brian Moore's Lies of Silence abound in this no-holds-barred debut about an Irish republican paramilitary who becomes first hunter, then hunted... Bell resists clichés and stretches the tension out to a bitterly abrupt end in which there are no winners.
Orkney-born Liam Murray Bell's debut novel offers a fresh perspective on the Troubles.
This confident debut novel alternates between the two characters and invites us to speculate on the connection between them (the truth of which is tantalisingly deferred). Cassie’s tale is meandering but the scenes dealing with young Aoife are beautifully handled. Though her story is harrowing, there are moments of humour and warmth that would seem to confirm her plaintive dictum: “It’s not always cruelty that shows through.
We Love This Book
No word is wasted, no imagery subdued in this powerful book which shows the reader what hard times are all about. An emotional rollercoaster with a very thought-provoking ending where the true value of life is considered.
There are real glimpses of a unique literary voice emerging in the first part of the book. Aoife's story is constructed in a genuinely engaging fashion, and Bell uses our present peace time context to examine the impact of all that has gone before.
In recent years Northern Irish writers have tended to avoid subjects close to home, fearing a lack of perspective and that they might be lured into taking sides. Liam Murray Bell, a Scotsman by birth but who was at university in Belfast, has no such reservations. He has plunged in headlong, setting his first novel So It Is in Belfast in the 1980s and 90s, when the Troubles are at their height and the Unionist and Nationalist communities at each other’s throats.
Through the juxtaposition of Aoife and Cassie’s stories, So It Is explores the physical and psychological devastation of the Northern Irish conflict on many levels with sensitivity and compassion. This is an intelligent, carefully constructed novel that includes real events from The Troubles to reinforce its emotional power.
REVIEWS OF THE BUSKER:
The Herald, 'Paperback of the Week'
Bell continues the winning streak he started with 2012's So It Is, with fine depictions of characters and locations, especially Rab's homeless companion Sage and the grimier parts of Brighton.
Scots Whay Hae!
The Busker is a tale for our times... What could have been a rail against the foolishness of youth is actually concerned with the way we judge art, (music in particular), asks us to consider "what price fame?", and questions just what we value in today's society... The Busker leaves you with the hope that it ain't over til it's over.
The likes of characterisation, setting and narrative voice come to the fore [in The Busker]... Rab's acquaintances are believable and well-rounded, while the settings – from the grubby woodlands of Hyndland to the insidious coldness of Brighton's beachfront – are very well observed.
We Love This Book
This is a disturbing and realistic portrayal of the music industry, homelessness and how life can go horribly wrong. In an age where we are made to believe that talent and/or ruthlessness is all that it takes this book reminds us sharply that no one is owed anything, and no matter how hard you work or how good you are things can still go wrong.
Dundee University Review of the Arts
Drawing on the recent Occupy movement, and on the resurgence in political activism that has followed the 2008 crash, [The Busker] is relevant, hard-hitting and certainly not lacking in grit...Bell's prose is unflinching, masculine and readable. He is certainly an accomplished stylist.