'In Belfast, in 1942, lived Belle, a mill-girl with a gift. Every morning at work, she enthralled people with the story of the film she saw last night. In her apron and turban-tied headscarf she climbed on the table of the spinning room in Rufus Street, and dramatised, in her own sharp accent, the passions of Hollywood. With her wide eyes and her wit, and her hands weaving gestures like a magician casting spells, she pierced the overcast of their long, dirty workdays.
They all knew Belle, and her circumstances, her morose household; the MacKnights had suffered an outrage in Belle's childhood. Only Belle had never been told what had happened - everybody knew that too. But how could she not have heard the whispers: they continued long after the funeral? Leonard, the other child of the family, knew the whole story, and he seemed as angry as Belle seemed good-natured: Superintendent Crawford, responsible for Leonard's division of the Special Reserve Constabulary, had often had to caution him, tone him down. Belle never seemed to enquire what had happened to make Leonard like that; or had made her mother so religious. Belle never asked those questions: anyone could have told her: the loving Aunt Sandra, or run-off-at-the-mouth Uncle Jed, a hundred neighbours.
The Rufus Street women talked about Belle as if she were family, and their view of her had become kind of control. By discussing her, they maintained her innocence, these women devoid of compunctions. By saying how they.....'
- Debolina Raja Gupta