Pearse Furlong and May-Belle Mulholland appear to be two normal eleven year olds. Most of the time you'd pass them in the street and not give them a second glance but they have a secret life that you wouldn't want to share. Brought up in Northern Ireland at the worst of The Troubles, when shootings and bombings form the backdrop to life, and in homes where beatings and abuse are regular occurrences, Pearse and May-Belle are looking to somehow escape this regular round of violence. Instead they end up channelling it through their games. Before they know it the two children are on a downward cycle of increasing brutality heading towards an inevitable conclusion.
All The Little Guns Went Bang, Bang, Bang is a darkly funny, disturbing story of how violence begets violence. Seeing these children regularly beaten and abused in their own homes at first gains the reader's sympathy but then as they set about their own spree of violence it quickly goes.
The writing is at times brutal and unflinching - the horrors don't fade into 'soft focus' or take place 'off-screen' but right up there in full view - and there were times I wished I could read with my eyes closed - to not actually see what was happening. It's all the more terrible because this violence is committed by children.
Away from their violent escapades Pearse and May-Belle are actually quite sweet. In a secret hiding place they tell each other stories - May-Belle tells of the one good time in her life when her dad took her to the seaside for a week; Pearse recounts the family histories as told by his Gran. Both give a glimpse of how life could have been for them, if only....
All in all a thought-provoking read about how lives are shattered - in more than physical ways - by violence.
Don't be fooled by the 'Janet and John' early reader style cover, this is at times a very violent book with lots of strong language.
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Freight Books
Genre - Adult