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The Mill for Grinding Old People Young Paperback – 3 Jan 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571281850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571281855
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'The mark of successful historical fiction is that it has unforced resonances for the time it is being read in. The Mill for Grinding Old People Young is such a novel . . . [the] mix of the real and the imagined gives Patterson s novel both depth and charge . . . In Gilbert Rice he has created a humane hero for his times as well as ours.' --Mary Morrisey, Irish Times

'Gilbert Rice is as complex a figure as Patterson has created. His life embodies the art of deception; he debunks stereotype; and the voice of the older Gilbert, the voice of the prose, contains all the nuance of one whose life has run the gamut from disappointment to achievement. The last dozen pages change voice and direction, framing Gilbert in others words. They bring completion to the story, along with a sense of documentary authenticity and pathos and a true sense of real lives lived.' --Tom Adair, Scotsman

'Northern Ireland's best novelist . . . [a] boisterous yet touching tale.' --Sunday Herald

'As with all good love stories, you care what happens to the characters . . . to give away the ending would be a disservice to Patterson, whose solid craftsmanship is evident throughout . . . he has fashioned a love story in which two people from wildly different backgrounds are thrown together in circumstances that will transform their lives.' --David Robson, Sunday Telegraph

'[His] finest novel. The narrator's voice is a triumph.' --Guardian

'Beautifully crafted . . . Inspired by real people and places, this novel offers a view of the city that most Dubliners will never have seen before, and it s a sight for sore eyes, and a joy besides.' --Irish Times

Book Description

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young, by Glenn Patterson, is at once a novel about a young man who is caught up in the political fever of the times and a love story about discovering who you are and how you define yourself.

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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jan. 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Glenn Patterson is described on the back cover by Will Self as "Northern Ireland's Prose Laureate". That's a bold claim, especially since Patterson is almost unknown outside of Northern Ireland (and probably not that well known within it), but he is one of a handful of Northern writers who have something significant to say.

The Mill For Grinding Old People Young is basically a history lesson for Belfast. Narrated in 1897 by an old man, Gilbert Rice, looking back at his youth, we find ourselves in Belfast pretty much as the Industrial Revolution arrives. If you love Belfast, it will be a treat to visit familiar streets and see them in such a different context. And it may be shocking to realise how little of that history we ever knew. For example, we find Castle Place dominated by (who would have thought it) a Castle. The castle of the Chichesters, no less, one of whom (Lord Donegall) gave his name to so many of the streets. Instead of the City Hall, we have the White Linen Hall - hence Linenhall Street and the Linenhall Library. Ormeau is the country seat of the Chichesters; Ballymacarrett is a separate and rural settlement across the river; the docks were tidal sludge; Shankhill had an H, Glengormley was all farms, and Belfast was 100% Protestant. Almost...

The story, such as it is, concerns plans and schemes to upgrade the harbour and docks. Plus, Gilbert discovers what's inside his trousers as he falls for a serving maid at the wonderfully named inn: The Mill For Grinding Old People Young. The story is told in Gilbert's voice, a pastiche Victorian language.
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By Lovely Treez TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
I wouldn't have even heard about this novel if it hadn't been our latest choice for our library reading group, so many thanks to Liz, our lovely librarian, for seeking out this gem of a story. I had heard of Glenn Patterson, a local author, who has written many novels set during and considering the impact of the Troubles in Northern Ireland but for some strange reason I hadn't read any of these, preferring perhaps not to read about our painful past and instead reading about conflict in other distant countries. Time to rectify that now!

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young is narrated by Belfast man, Gilbert Rice, in 1897. At the age of 85, his health is failing yet he has vivid memories of his youth in a rapidly changing city. In the 1830s the city's population was expanding rapidly in response to industrialisation and the influx of a vast new workforce. Gilbert has had a relatively sheltered childhood, brought up by a strict but kindly grandfather, but he enters a new exciting world when he starts work at the Ballast Office at the Port of Belfast. There is the constant fear of a cholera epidemic which leads to a wariness of foreigners. There is a wide chasm between the landed gentry and the ordinary working folk although both like to indulge in a bit of gambling at cock-fights! Gilbert makes his way through an ever changing world, making mistakes en route, growing up in a city which is also finding its feet.

Written in an easy, accessible style, this intriguing novel opens a window on the past of a city which has constantly had to reinvent itself. From the opening pages, you have a sense of Belfast as a living, breathing organism and there's a lot of affection and humour from Gilbert as he takes you on a tour of a city in its heyday.
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Format: Paperback
The Mill For Grinding Old People Young has only been published a short time, but already it's looking like it may be the great Belfast novel. I devoured it in two sittings, and will never look at the city in the same way again.

Patterson expertly tells the tale of the youthful misadventures of Gilbert Rice, in the early 1830s, against the backdrop of a singular Irish town which is beginning its transformation into an industrial imperial powerhouse. One can almost taste the saltiness in this outward-facing and decidedly maritime Belfast, its harbour the point of entry for all sorts of exotic influences.

The narrative is framed by the much older Gilbert Rice, now venerated as one of the titanic Victorian builders of the industrial city that Belfast has become in the meantime. With this clever device, and a wonderfully imaginative use of a fantastic bit of architectural trivia (one example of many, of meticulous research), Patterson gives us a century-and-a-half of Belfast, from the United Irishmen through to the Luftwaffe.

It's a stunning achievement of creative imagination; it is perhaps Patterson's best work yet, which is saying quite something, since his place among the finest living Irish writers is undisputed. With this novel, he has created an evocative version of his native city that will surely come to be known as 'Pattersonian Belfast'.
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Format: Paperback
Nice idea to watch Belfast grow to its peak in the days of Empire through the life of a character. However, Glenn really can't stop telling you on every page about the research he has undertaken. The result is a book that becomes obsessed with roads, lanes and bridges which will mean little to anyone outside of Belfast and not a lot to those inside it. Amazingly the book hasn't even a map. The story is a bit too contrived but the writing is effortless - when it doesn't take a wrong turn into another road.
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