OUT OF THE FLAMES
Out of the Flames details one family’s direct experiences of the Northern Ireland Troubles. On the 7th December 1971 Philip Coogan’s life changes overnight, lucky to survive after a sectarian bomb destroys his thriving garage business in the seaside town of Donaghadee, but the innocence of his wife and children died.
Determined to rebuild, Philip is frustrated at every turn by the cold shoulders of planning authorities and those who told him they would see him ‘run out of town’. Despite some help from an unexpected quarter – the Reverend Ian Paisley – there seems to be no way forward in an increasingly suspicious and hostile community.
As the Troubles intensify, repeated attempts are made on Philip’s life, and he and his young family flee across the border to the Republic, renting a damp and dilapidated cottage in Roscommon. Struggling to make ends meet, while reliving the horror of past events, Philip’s health deteriorates as he suffers severe post-traumatic shock disorder and other related illnesses. Desperate for a better life for their children, Philip, and his wife plan to emigrate, but with no income, nor compensation for his injuries, it proves impossible.
The final straw comes with a risible offer of £120 for the site of his former business from the local Government in the North. Feeling defrauded and conspired against, Philip becomes increasingly angry and paranoid, and finally is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Drugged and violently humiliated, he emerges a broken man. It seems that Philip’s life, in any meaningful sense is over. What can possibly save him?
Out of the Flames charts, with lyricism and moving honesty, the remarkable triumph over tragedy of one ordinary man, living through extraordinary times.
Review by Self Publishing Magazine.
An explosion at Philip Coogan’s garage premises in the midst of the Northern Ireland troubles, in the early seventies sets in motion a train of events, that leave Philip and his young family struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile environment.
Coogan begins at the beginning, telling his story in beguilingly fluent prose. His description of his early life, growing up in a rural community, paints a pleasant picture, which makes what comes next even more disturbing. The distress and frustrations experienced by Philip and his family will have a profound effect on anyone used to viewing the situation in Northern Ireland as an abstract, political problem, I had little idea, no doubt along with many others, of the difficulties people faced in their daily lives, always having to look over their shoulders, and being defined and endangered by their religion. As I got further into the book, I felt almost as if I couldn’t read on, as the family’s bewildering and upsetting plight worsened. However, there are, thankfully, shining examples of good deeds to lighten the gloom – some from unexpected quarters.
The book, good value, with a glossy and dramatic front cover, provides a clear and memorable insight into the effects of sectarian conflict.
Review by Old Biker.
Out Of The Flames is Phillip Coogan’s story of how the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland affected an ordinary man and his family and is an important and ignored part of a story more often told by in print by ex-military men,paramilitaries and politicians.
While the Troubles form the core of the book it tells of Coogan’s idyllic early life and ambition to be a Priest through his ,family life ,various business ventures and the ill-health that was eventually realised to be the result of his experiences in the awful and horrific times that were the Troubles He conveys very well the descent of relative normality in Northern Ireland into the tribalism and brutality that led to anarchy and the very worst in human nature showing itself. To most,if they noticed at all,reports of the explosion that wrecked Coogan’s business in Belfast and destroyed his peace of mind would have been something barely meriting a mention in the media. Like thousands of others though what to those not affected was a relatively minor event ,along with the constant threat of “a knock on the door” and being on the wrong end of sectarianism even in small communities cast a dark shadow leaving psychological scars of the kind only now recognised as PTSD and it’s related symptoms.
A very moving book and a very brave one,not least towards the end when Mr Coogan finds himself in literally a bad place for a while,a place many would not admit to having been admitted but all relevant to his story.
My only personal reservation as an agnostic was that Mr Coogan is a devout Catholic and while the beliefs of others are their choice I did nearly give up on the book quite early on because of the constant religious references.which to be fair are part of that stage in his life but left me thinking,”if it carries on like this I’m done with it,”. His story,his beliefs and I’d never knock anyone for what they believe in but that part was very nearly too much for me.
That aside a very good read,in his place I’d have made very different choices but his character and personality shines through so I could understand why he stood his ground when there were alternatives.
Thanks to Peter Coogan,his publishers and Netgalley for the chance to read his excellent book in return for an honest review. All opinions are mine,others are available.