In the cold dawn of Christmas Day 1897, Gilbert Rice, 85-years-old and in failing health, recounts his journey into manhood in a city on the cusp of great change.
Belfast in the 1830s was a city in flux. Industrialisation had led to an increase in population as workers flocked to the newly created jobs. Gilbert, a young man with prospects, begins work with the Ballast Office, supervising Belfast Port.
But in the course of his days - and nights - abroad in the town, Gilbert becomes aware of tensions old and new. When he meets Maria, a Polish exile from Russian persecution, he is drawn into a love affair that will drive him to an act that could change his life, and the town's, for ever.
The Mill for Grinding Old People Young is a brilliantly imaginative and moving historical novel. It evokes a vanished city that resonates powerfully with our contemporary anxieties.
Glenn Patterson is the author of eight previous novels, the most recent of which, The Mill for Grinding Old People Young, was the 2012 Once City One Book choice for Belfast. He has written plays for Radio 3 and Radio 4 and is the co-writer of Good Vibrations (BBC Films/The Works), an award-winning movie based on the life of Belfast punk impresario Terri Hooley, released in spring 2013. A collection of his journalism, for among others the Guardian, Sunday Times and Irish Times, was published in 2006 as Lapsed Protestant and in 2008 he published the memoir memoir Once Upon a Hill: Love in Troubled Times. He is currently at work on a novel set in the DeLorean motor plant in the early 1980s; a related screenplay has already been commissioned. He lives in Belfast.