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City of Bohane: A Novel Hardcover – March 13, 2012
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“City of Bohane, the extraordinary first novel by the Irish writer Kevin Barry, is full of marvels. They are all literary marvels, of course: marvels of language, invention, surprise. Savage brutality is here, but so is laughter. And humanity. And the abiding ache of tragedy.” ―Pete Hamill, The New York Times Book Review (front cover)
“Barry's first novel is a grizzled piece of futuristic Irish noir with strong ties to the classic gang epics of Yore. . . . The genre stew--which incorporates a Machiavellian alcoholic mother, flag-waving street fights, and uncertain alliances--is imbued throughout with Barry's inventively vulgar language.” ―The New Yorker
“As you prowl the streets of Bohane with Barry's motley assortment of thugs and criminal masterminds, you will find yourself drawn into their world and increasingly sympathetic to their assorted aims and dreams.” ―Boston Globe
“City of Bohane offers a dystopian vision that is splendidly drawn if not shockingly inventive. . . . [Barry's] descriptions are notably vibrant (a December day is 'as miserable as hells scullery) and his syntax strikingly creative.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer, Grade: A
“Although Barry has set this bewitching, stylized noir pageant of underworld dynastic upheaval in the grim near-future, it has a timeless air, with spookily beautiful evocations of ancient Irish mythology and an elegiac sense of civilization's attenuation while the old, bred-in-the-bones urges are resurgent.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Barry seems to relish splashing around in the literary mud puddles left behind by language-obsessed writers like Flann O'Brian, Cormac McCarthy, and Irvine Welsh. Meanwhile, an equally passionate love of film (think Quentin Tarantino and Sergio Leone) casts a flickering shadow over Barry's fictional world's pop culture crashes into language, and they are both dressed to the nines.” ―Shelf Awareness
“This wild-ass ripsnorter, set in Ireland about 40 years from now, is a bravura, Nabokovian mind-blower. . . . It's elegiac, lyrical, rollicking fun that mixes Brian Friel with A Clockwork Orange.” ―Library Journal, "Books for Dudes"
“The best novel to come out of Ireland since Ulysses.” ―Irvine Welsh
“Kevin Barry is a genius. He is doing with his life and his gift exactly what he was put on this earth to do and continues the long and great line of Irish writers. His debut novel City of Bohane is an original and remarkable work of inventiveness. . . . As I read, I felt fortunate to gawp at this wondrous treasure trove of Barry's creativity and mastery.” ―Ethel Rohan
“Kevin Barry is the real thing, and nothing can stop him.” ―David Guterson
“City of Bohane is an unforgettably wonderful novel: hilarious, unique, utterly believable. It's Joyce meets Anthony Burgess, and as funny as Flann O'Brien. We Kevin Barry fans have known for a while that he is a writer of rarest gifts, but this book is an electrifying masterpiece.” ―Joseph O'Connor
“Kevin Barry is unique, a one-man school. His work is hilarious and unpredictable--and always brilliant.” ―Roddy Doyle
About the Author
Kevin Barry was born in Limerick in 1969 and now lives in Dublin. His short fiction has appeared widely on both sides of the Atlantic, most recently in The New Yorker. City of Bohane is his first novel.
Top customer reviews
This is a rich, dense gangland saga set in a strange Irish seaside town of Bohane. Strange because although ostensibly set on Ireland's west coast, Barry draws such a vivid picture it's a place that's all his own.
"Smoketown was hoors, herb, fetish parlours, grog pits, needle alleys, dream salons and Chinese restaurants".
Just when you think you've got a handle on the scene, with two warring gangs, up pops a third: a tribe of semi-wild aborigines who speak Jamaican patois.
It's equally difficult to pinpoint exactly when this is set: at times, it feels like dandified Teddy Boy Britain, at other times, futuristic, but it's a future in which technology has failed us, and humankind has reverted to no tech tribal warfare. Mercifully, there's not a mobile phone in sight.
Barry has acknowledged the influence of Anthony Burgess, and like the Manchester master, he has invented a language all his own: "Cusacks gonna sulk up a welt o' vengeance by 'n' by and if yer askin' me, like? A rake of them tossers bullin' down off the Rises is the las' thing Smoketown need."
This immerses you even further into his strange world, and it's a rewarding, if alarming experience.
As with Burgess' Clockwork Orange there are some startling scenes of ultraviolence.
Our hero, if you can call him such, is The Gant, who, after a long period of banishment, returns to Bohane to: do what exactly? We think it's to confront his one time nemesis, Logan, the gangleader who bosses this place, and has the politicians, police and newspapers all in his pocket. But I was never sure exactly what his motives were.
At its heart there is a touching love story, and the language is delightful and thrilling, but I felt the story rather petered out towards the end.
There is no skimming this book. Instead of flowing down the story like I was on a lazy river ride, I had to point my brain at the piece and say “Read this, and comprehend.” It is brilliant with every word, but only to those who have the patience to read through the dialect and the slag used – which was a drawback. As someone who does not comprehend Irish slang, this was rough. Given that Barry is an Irish writer, I’ll take his words on the meanings of this futuristic slang provided, though I would like a glossary.
The love story that seems to sit at the heart of the piece may be the only rock to cling to in the book. It was a lovely hint of sweetness in the otherwise dark dystopia between Macu – the wife of Logan “Long Fella” Hartnett – and her old sweetheart, the Gant. This is not our world we read of, this is the world of people like Don Corleone: either you respect them, or they will make you respect them. In this case, the true power is Hartnett’s mother, Girly. She reigns over her son from her darkened hotel room, and he in turn reigns over the Hartnett Fancy against the Norries of the Northside Rises.
To me, there was no ending to this book. Normally this would set me away from ever reading it again, but I did see what ending I believe Barry wanted us to see: the change in the city of Bohane and her status quo.
Mr. Barry also manages to communicate a strong sense of place; the west of Ireland that isn't really the west of Ireland, but is perhaps more the west of Ireland than the actual place. He credits Anthony Burgess as a major influence, which he obviously was, and like Burgess, he manages to take the imagination into the most important parts of place, in a sense its emotional touch points, while being very comfortable taking all sorts of liberties with description; Bohane is like Burgess' Britain or any number of fantastic sights around the world that couldn't possibly be but come off as absolutely authentic.
His characters tend to be types and he is a painterly narrator, showing us the image of the old woman and the whiskey, the boys with the homicidal boot heals and carefully arranged hair, etc., and providing them with dialogue that perfectly suits the image and associations his descriptions conjure up. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and Beatlebone as well.
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