Last we saw them, Kevin and Sadie were leaving Belfast in a hurry. In the third of Joan Lingard’s novels about the two teenagers from Northern Ireland, they are living in – relative – squalor in London. Married at Gretna Green, they are struggling to earn money, wanting to find somewhere better to live, but knowing this is all they can have for the moment. Both miss their tight-knit lives from their respective Belfast neighbourhoods.
But they discover that it is possible to make new friends and slowly life gets better, until a few new spanners are thrown into the works for them, in the shape of new workmates, girls down at the pub, an admirer for Sadie, and family troubles at home.
They know they want to be together, but it is so hard to keep going when life gets tough.
This is a beautiful time capsule, taking some of us back to the early 1970s, reminding us what things were like in those pre-historic days. And what this really is, is a typical tale of displaced people. It doesn’t matter which decade or where those people came from or why. There is always hardship, and suspicion from the locals, and even a lot of prejudice from the newcomers. I suspect this will never change.
Also, Sadie is very young – well, they both are – and impetuous, and it’s not easy not to spend too much money or not to want to go out and have fun. But Sadie happens to have a knack for making friends anywhere, which is a good thing, because you do need people when life is tough.
In Into Exile it seems as if most of their worries stem from the family back in Belfast, but they can’t go back. Or can they?
Sometimes all you need is a new colourful mug to cheer you up.