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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe 
27th-Feb-2006 10:39 pm
Continuing my masochistic stint with modernist, "literary" novels...

(Hey, was that a bar of soap stuffed up his backside during police interrogation? Yeah, I thought so. >_< )

McCabe, Patrick. The Butcher Boy. 1992. London: Picador, 1993.
Summary: As far as the town is concerned, Francie Brady and his family are no better than pigs. A bipolar, suicidal mother, a violent, alcoholic father, and an uncle with delusions of grandeur are just the start, and Francie blames all of the misfortunes of his life, his parents' death, the loss of his best friend Joe, sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, the ignominy of his family history, and so forth, on the privileged townswoman Mrs. Nugent. In the end, he kills her and butchers her like a pig.
Comments: written entirely in the interior monologue and first person narrative of a semi-educated boy, expect all you can take as far as run-on sentences and Irish slang go...and plenty more. An exceedingly difficult masterpiece that deftly unites form and function, this novel can be read either as your standard thriller or as an allegory for the socio-economic and political strife, not to mention paranoia, of the post-WWII years. By the end, at the very least, you'll understand EXACTLY why Francie does what he does, and you may even, as I did, want to take a bolt gun to someone's head, too. Suffice to say that Mrs. Nugent struck the first blow by hurling insults at the Brady family in response to some innocent mischief perpetrated on her son. And, ever after that, Francie tries to repent, but whenever he does, life throws him another mean curve to remind him that he's no better than a "pig," and his animosity toward Mrs. Nugent, who committed the unforgivable crime of being the first to treat Francie with prejudice (and who happens to have made her fortune in England), is renewed. We as readers know that she is not directly responsible for Francie's unfortunate life, but she is a powerful symbol nonetheless of the system that would deem him worthless--and he realizes this on a subconscious level. All Francie really wants is the horizontal brotherhood he had with Joe of his youth. Oh, and incidentally, like the later Breakfast on Pluto, this novel features a pedophile priest, not to mention the misanthropic protagonist who takes it out on his disgruntlement on his hometown.
Notes: trade paperback, 19th printing
Rating: 8.5/10 - If you've got your Irish literature act together, this can be a rewarding read. Otherwise, if you're an ignorant American like me, watch the film first so you'll know what's actually happening.
28th-Feb-2006 02:06 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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