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The Butcher Boy Paperback – August 1, 1994

80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

"I was thinking how right ma was -- Mrs. Nugent all smiles when she met us and how are you getting on Mrs and young Francis are you both well? . . .what she was really saying was: Ah hello Mrs Pig how are you and look Philip do you see what's coming now -- The Pig Family!"

This is a precisely crafted, often lyrical, portrait of the descent into madness of a young killer in small-town Ireland. "Imagine Huck Finn crossed with Charlie Starkweather," said The Washington Post. Short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award and England's prestigious Booker Prize. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Francie Brady is a disaffected, working-class, Roman Catholic teenager living in Northern Ireland. His alcoholic father works in the local slaughterhouse and his mother, despite being a whir of household efficiency, is suicidal. The latest phase of the "troubles" in Ireland have not yet formally begun--it is the early '60s--but Francie is nonetheless caught in a cycle of pride, envy and poverty aggravated by the ancient conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The book opens with Francie remembering: "When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent." By its end, young Francie has dispatched Mrs Nugent and earned his eponymous nickname. The Nugents, a prosperous Protestant family, have it all, in Francie's eyes: their son Philip goes to private school and takes music lessons; their home is carpeted and the telly works. Francie begins by playing pranks on the family--swindling Philip out of his comic books, defecating in their house when they are away. But when he bludgeons Philip's brother in a fight, Francie loses his closest friend, who then befriends the Nugent family. Then the violence escalates. Deservedly, Butcher Boy won the 1992 Irish Times -Aer Lingus Award and was shortlisted for Britain's 1992 Booker Prize. McCabe's Francie speaks in a rich vernacular spirited by the brassy and endearing rhythms of perpetual delinquency; even in his gradual unhinging, Francie remains a winning raconteur. By looking so deeply into Francie's soul, McCabe ( Music on Clinton Street ) subtly sugggests a common source for political and personal violence--lack of love and hope. Major ad/promo; ABA appearance.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (August 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385312377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385312370
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By sweetmolly on March 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Francie Brady is mad, first a little, then a lot, and he is taking you with him. The claustrophobic narrative (you can't for a moment get away from Francie) creates pity, terror and exasperated laughter in the reader.
Francie, the only child of a mean-drunk father and a slovenly, barely sane mother keeps his sanity by his all-encompassing friendship with Joe Mullen. He and Joe "mess around," do all the boyish things and bond as blood brothers. But as Francie's oddities increase, Joe pulls away from him. Francie shatters. From the very beginning, there is a tethered violence in Francie; as he descends into madness, his terrifying ferocity is unleashed.
Mr. McCabe plays with us readers very well by putting us in Francie's lightning-quick mind and never letting us out. Francie is exhausting, humorous and the most Attention Deficient child you will ever meet. I felt a terrible sorrow for Francie, so much so I wanted to command events. I wanted to say "Not. One. More. Bad. Thing!" The child has had enough horrible things happen to him! But Mr. McCabe had his own story to tell.
A gripping, marvelous, draining, exhilarating, tale. I'll never forget Francie!
-sweetmolly-Amazon Reviewer
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Somewhat surprised that so many of the comments here are negative. Maybe Francie's "voice" in the book doesn't speak to everyone, but it spoke to me like no other book I've read (corny as this might sound to some of you) since I read "Catcher in the Rye" as a young man. I did wonder after reading this book how it would translate, whether it would find an audience outside Ireland, whether somebody in, say, America or England would actually "get" this book. On reading some of these comments it seems like many just didn't get it. Of course it's a completely subjective thing and the last thing I'm going to tell you is that you're all you're wrong if you hated the book. But, and I find it very difficult to describe exactly how I feel about this book, I grew up in a town like Francie, and what McCabe has captured in this, what he understands more than anyone else I've ever read, is that dark, surreal side of the rural Irish psyche. As I read it I felt like I was discovering a voice I'd always been searching for, hearing a story I always wanted told and one I understood implicitly. And it was a great release.
To me this is a more important book than anything else that has come out of Ireland in the last 15/20 years...including stuff most people readily lap up like Roddy Doyle and Frank McCourt (though they are talented writers). That's why I feel strongly about seeing it dismissed as rubbish by some of the other reviewers here. To me this astonishing book is McCabe's best work, better than Breakfast on Pluto which gets a 5 star rating on this site..though I would also wholeheartedly recommend The Dead School.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By B. Fulton on November 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
So "The Butcher Boy" offers nothing new? OK, name one other book that traces the psychological workings of a young boy who turns into a murderer. And while we're at it, name another book that pulls it off with the skill and narrative voice of McCabe. Really, if you're looking for gore and shock, find a highway accident. The heart-breaking tragedy of "Butcher Boy" is that of a lost childhood. If we've no ability to mourn the death of childhood--as it seems some of the reviewers below have--then our society truly is hopelessly lost in a morass of violence, apathy, and the endless quest of cheap thrills. So read your meaningless Stephen King. Read your vapid Bret Easton Ellis. But please, don't point your critical finger at true writers like McCabe.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Set is a rural Irish town in the early 1960s, The Butcher Boy is a beautiful and disturbing novel that tells the tale of "the incredible Francie Brady," a lonely Irish teenager who has, at best, a tenuous grasp on reality.
A series of crushing personal loses, are causing Francie to slowly descend into madness, into the world of the true psychopath. In an irrational attempt to fix blame on someone for the cruelties which have befallen him, Francie makes a local woman, Mrs. Nugent, the target of his scathing and sardonic wit, his growing anger, and finally, his shocking violence. This is a tale of the surrealistic space that lies between sanity and insanity and Francie is the mythical changeling.
Despite its exceptionally depressing subject matter, The Butcher Boy is darkly comic and Francie's resilient, callous and savage first-person narrative, devoid of much traditional punctuation, impels the reader at a breakneck speed. Francie gives nicknames to people, places and things and speaks in his own brand of Irish slang. The book is a little claustrophobic in feel because we observe Francie's descent into madness from the inside, without realizing that we are going there. We unwittingly embrace his warped point of view and are able to sympathize with him and weep for him even though we absolutely cannot condone what he does. It's a rather hallucinatory novel, a patchwork-quilt of B-movie aliens, comic strip logic and even visions of the Virgin Mary. It's a wild ride between sentimentality and the Grand Guignol; a place where real and rational explanations of the world simply aren't good enough.
Although this is an Irish novel, you won't find any politics in this book. The Butcher Boy is set in a distant, apolitical Ireland of the past, all to the good.
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