I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
Last year the Booker prize winner was Milkman by Anna Burns and what a disappointing read that proved to be. Set in Belfast this was a book of gossip told in the first person by "middle sister" in a very claustrophobic and confusing style. Why should I tell you this? quite simply it is only to draw a comparison between a book that did not deserve the prize and a book published in 1992 that was Booker shortlisted but did not win....and what a pity it didn't......
The Butcher Boy is a highly entertaining tour de force novel set in a small Irish Village. The prose is direct and very similar in style to The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks where the main character is also the narrator. In The Butcher Boy our narrator is Francie Brady probably best described as a bit of a scallywag, a good-for-nothing who with his best friend Joe spend their days in a carefree way more an inconvenience to the residents than a real threat. When they make the acquaintance of a local lad Philip Nugent and act in a somewhat dishonest way, refusing to return his comics, Mrs Nugent steps in to rescue the situation and in so doing changes the life of not only Francie but indirectly hers which is only revealed when the book concludes.
This is a startling novel giving great insight into life in a small Irish community in the early 1960s. Through the eyes of Francie we soon become acquainted with the somewhat joie de vivre attitude of the locals none more accommodating than Brady himself. However the second part of the novel displays a bitter and disturbing series of events; events that will have a long reaching affect on not only our narrator but an unsuspecting target. What starts off as a jovial account suddenly changes direction with impromptu violence and a very dark ending, with echoes of Charles Manson. Along the way it is easy to see how it only takes a little act to upset the balance of peace and how such an act can have deadly consequences...nothing is what it seems, people are not what they seem...With a very snappy dialogue that crackles along the book deserves to be read in one sitting..."He had a big breeze block of a head and a pair of eyebrows like two slugs trying to stand up"...."it was funny that face it slowly grew over the other one until one day you looked and the person you knew was gone."....."Oh ma I said the whole house is burning up on us then a fist made of smoke hit me a smack in the mouth its over says ma its all over now".....Highly recommended.