Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “City of Bohane” as Want to Read:
City of Bohane
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

City of Bohane

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  2,327 Ratings  ·  401 Reviews
Shortlisted for the 2011 Costa First Novel Award

Forty years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and the eerie bogs of Big Nothin' that the city re
Paperback, 277 pages
Published March 31st 2011 by Jonathan Cape
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about City of Bohane, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about City of Bohane

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
i do not know if you will like this book.

usually, i am pretty good with the readers' advisory thing - i have this innate sense that automatically provides me with a list of names of people i think would appreciate the book, even if i didn't like it myself. call it a gift.

but this one - i am genuinely at a loss. i know that i liked it, but i also know that i am a little bit damaged from having read it. like my brain has been mooshed a little and i have had a hard time readjusting.

so it takes pla
Jun 09, 2013 GoldGato rated it really liked it

A place should never for too long go against its nature.

Bohane. Mid-21st century after some un-named calamity which has affected Ireland and, apparently, Britain also. Perhaps the rest of the world? That is one of the conceits of this sci-fi steampunk something novel, the first by the wonderful Kevin Barry. Bohane is a wicked city...think San Francisco of Barbary Coast fame in the 19th century. Everyone has a game, an angle to play and safety and security are part of the Lost-Time.

There are no i
Dec 04, 2012 Bennet rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bennet by: Vheissu
Shelves: novels-stories
The language dazzled and taunted and tempted till the end, but I can't call the story or the ending satisfying. For all the detailing, much was not developed that could have been, and without a lot more effort, which, it seems to me, would have made this a better story.

It's a new book, just out this year, but I don't feel like explaining what it's about and will just insert the book blurb for those who are curious but don't want to refer back to it: Thirty or so years in the future. The once-gre
Rob Kitchin
May 07, 2012 Rob Kitchin rated it it was ok
Kevin Barry is well known for his short stories. He has a vivid imagination and is an excellent wordsmith, crafting some lovely, expressive prose. City of Bohane has received high praise from some of Ireland’s literary stars such as Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor and Hugo Hamilton. I therefore had high expectations for Barry’s first novel. With the exception of the prose and some of the characterisation, for me, it failed to deliver. For the most part, the characters are difficult to identify with ...more
Apr 11, 2012 Ali rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Unusual and memorable bog-soaked poetry of a small Irish city filled with whores, gamblers, criminals, lonely hearts, and every other kind of down-and-outer. It's a city where whoever schemes the best lives the longest, and you can't trust anyone. It's a city that breaks people.

Like drinking whiskey on a wintery day in a room with no heat, no light, and two-inch gapes between each wooden wall plank, Barry's book will shake you. It's a silent, desperate bellowing yellow to the moon. And it's also
Ethel Rohan
Dec 14, 2011 Ethel Rohan rated it it was amazing
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.

Set in the fictional and futuristic city of Bohane, somewhere in the West of Ireland in 2053, this is a dark and harrowing tale that is at turns horrific and stunning. For all the memorable and well-dressed characters, gripping plot twists, and brillian
Sep 26, 2011 Casey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I love this book so far. The language in both the dialogue and the narration is fantastic. It just pops.
And there's a lot of really meaty subject matter going on- Revenge, love, growing old, legacies... Awesome.

Also, I promise that my endorsement of this book is not affected by the fact that Graywolf is publishing the US edition in March 2012. Honest. This book is straight legit. I am, however, super excited that we're going to be publishing the US edition in March 2012.


The end of th
Oct 19, 2011 Janet rated it it was amazing
Profane, cinematic, hilarious, elegiac, brutal, poetic, original. I found City of Bohane to be all these things and more. The language is amazing. It took me a chapter or two to adjust to the vernacular Kevin Barry's characters employ, but it was well worth the effort. (You can view the author reading from the book at

At the center of the story is the struggle between rival gangs for control of the Irish city of Bohane, but there are also several fascinating subplots i
Aug 31, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I picked up City of Bohane expecting a book of gang warfare, of violent dystopian action perhaps in the expected mode of such stories (think Gangs of New York) in which events build to an brutal, climactic showdown. But City of Bohane isn't that book, it's far more than that, and reducing it "just" bloody violence would be a shame.

Though there is plenty of violence, and more often the threat of it, that's not the point. Those scenes are often deemphasized when they arrive, overshadowed by the lo
Dec 02, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
Sure it's another dystopian novel, but Barry mines the Celtic archetypes to create a truly original visionary work of genius and linguistic brilliance. What is it about Irish writers that transforms English prose into poetry? The neologisms, the dialect, the beautiful rhythms of a well-wrought line, the poetry of the everyday, the evocation of a place long gone in a future that will never be but might have been. Though the lives described are bleak, the descriptions themselves are beautiful. Joy ...more
Owen Curtsinger
Apr 02, 2012 Owen Curtsinger rated it really liked it
While reading this book I was reminded of what it's like to read William Gibson's Neuromancer for the first time. At first it's a little unclear what the meat of the story is, but if you just hang on and let the rhythm and cadence of the prose take you for a ride, you will find yourself in a new and fascinating place. And what a place; Bohane is a weird and wild mash-up of Jamaican shanty-towns, Soviet tenements, and Little Italy and Chinatown. It's true that the plot and characters are lacking ...more
Ian Young
Mar 09, 2013 Ian Young rated it it was amazing
“Tricky the paths a long love might follow, like the spiral down twists of a raindrop on a windowpane.” Kevin Barry's first novel is underpinned by the story of such a love, but distinguished by its swagger and vitality.

The City of Bohane is somewhere in the West of Ireland in the distant future, an Ireland that is real yet warped and seen through a dirty and distorted lens. The language of the book reflects the vision of the City – it too is bent and twisted, mixed with partly real, partly imag
Tom Heavey
Jun 21, 2013 Tom Heavey rated it it was ok
On my first attempt to read COB I was initially impressed by the poetic prose. Three chapters later I realised the majority sentences are simply lifted directly from local dialect with little artistic input. I laid the book down: returning recently after the IMPAC award hoping to uncover the error in my ways.

My discomfort with the borrowed patois remained as it pervaded, adding little substance; although those unfamiliar with the Limerick dialect may gain value from its novelty. Where Barry's s
Apr 28, 2013 Zoeytron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
What a tasty feast this was! I suspect this book will either be devoured with great relish or it will have you demanding to be excused from the table - pronto. Be prepared for something different from almost any other book you might pick up to read. A fresh idea, what a novelty!

As the story opens, the city 'had taken to the winter like an old dog to its blanket'. Bohane is over-run with street gangs. The reader will need to hang tough with the street jargon and just roll with it. Context is kin
Nov 17, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Stupendous. A broken, tainted, nostalgic West-of-Ireland city thrashing and smoldering as it remembers the 'lost-time', Bohane is tribal, brutal, fashion-conscious (velveteen puffa jackets and vinyl brothel-creepers), sentimental, full of heart and completely heartless. The language is pure energy, the characters are vivid and real and the story is timeless. It seems that when it all breaks down, we will be mediaeval once again, writhing, dreaming and plotting in a real human society, face to fa ...more
Linda Anne Smith
May 31, 2011 Linda Anne Smith rated it liked it
This is a book that you will either love or hate. I did both!!!
I read the first 2 chapters and really struggled with them, both in terms of the language (very broad Irish dialect and patois) and also just trying to find something - character or story - to start building the reading experience from. To be honest, if it wasn't for the fact that i "had to" read it for Book Club, I would not have persevered with this book. So I started again, and re-read the beginning, and kept going second-time ar
Jul 29, 2012 T.R. rated it it was amazing
As a high school teacher, I'm taking a summer class on on teaching reading and we reviewed a list of the 'pleasures of reading.' And the first two had to do with the pleasure associated with knowing the correspondences between letters and sounds and the pleasure of the sounds themselves as you read aloud. Barry's novel, for all it's atmosphere and impact in the literary circles, reminds me of those first two pleasures. Barry is mostly known as a short story writer, and it shows. On each page the ...more
Matthew Geyer
Jul 07, 2012 Matthew Geyer rated it really liked it
Kevin Barry is going to be somebody. That's what I thought when I read his apocalyptic short story in The New Yorker, Fjord of Killary, a year or two ago. This sent me searching the web, where I found his previous short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms, available from a small Irish literary press by way of an independent overseas bookseller. Kevin Barry already is somebody, I thought when I read those tales: He's an heir to William Trevor, like Banville and Toibin. But this one's ten ...more
Apr 05, 2012 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Bohane, a city on the Irish coast fed by a sick black river, is crime ridden. But... how can we call it crime if it is just a way of life? When everyone is actively engaged in a monstrous caricature of humanity, the dark manifesting in feints of genteel respectability? It's hard to see what value the Bohanites hold upon anything other than irrepressible self indulgence. Smoke and drink and carnality, amongst others is just parts in a day. People are people, they say, but the people of Bohane hav ...more
Apr 17, 2012 Trina rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
As I said in my recent review for ForeWord Magazine, this novel reminded me of the West Side Story, with the Jets and the Sharks replaced by rival gangs from the bogs and gorsey wilds of western Ireland. It's set in the futuristic 2054, but could just as easily be 1954 given the fluidity of time and the nostalgia for long ago when Gant had the running of the Back Trace, a labyrinth of streets filled with grog shops, noodle joints, fetish parlours, needle alleys, dream salons, and power haunts. B ...more
Jan 22, 2014 Leif rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whiteknuckled and gaptoothed, City of Bohane is a rickety plot careening across the lurid, sentimental, and predominantly one dimensional lives of its characters. Without going into too much detail the novel derives license to shock from its minimal science fiction affiliations and a clear fascination with the rougher parts of life from an extrapolated and grotesque version of a perception of West Irish poverty. Is the book fun? Yes, especially if you delight in finding twelve different ways to ...more
Apr 12, 2012 Joe rated it really liked it
The NY Times review was laudatory for this debut novel praising it for its originality and beauty of language. After reading it, I could not agree more. Kevin Barry belongs in a top row of authors who use the language as if it were an instrument. The shimmering prose dances across the page in rhythmic pirouettes brightening everything it touches. Imagine Mad Max with its strange characters and unique dress in a futuristic time in a ravaged, deranged city in Ireland.
I've often thought of people l
Mar 29, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing
I picked up City of Bohane in a flea market for £2 - an absolute STEAL considering how much I enjoyed it.

It's a tricky read to begin with, Barry wastes no time plunging you into his richly imagined Bohane and I sometimes struggled to understand the odd dialect of the cities natives. However, I persevered and I was soon hooked - I devoured the book over the course of a long weekend in Wales, and I heavily recommend setting aside a day or two just to read it all in one go - it requires that degree
May 07, 2012 katie rated it it was ok
At first I loved it. The language, the dialogue is amazing, and really new, as in not like anything I have read before. I did find fault with the story line, the twist seemed ridiculous. So the plot couldn't carry the good language, because for me the language even got tired, because it did not evolve, and the weak plot left it stagnant. The stereotypes, the misogyny, the bad mouthing all just started to feel vacuous.
The author, clearly, has a gifted ear for sound and language. But he isn't ver
Apr 01, 2012 Lori rated it it was amazing
I ate this book ravenously, despite my ongoing [fruitless] effort to go slowly, so I could linger with the delicious sentences. It was an utter delight, from beginning to end, and even though I know I missed so much of the subtlety because I know no Irish slang, it made me laugh and wince and flinch and feel the longing. I just finished it and am starting it again, right now.

I wish I could write a more sophisticated review, identify flaws and weaknesses, but I can't. I loved everything about thi
Jen Squire
Jul 07, 2014 Jen Squire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm lucky. Kevin Barry read to me before I read him, so while I was reading this I could hear him and see how he moves while he's reading, how he smirks and squints with his characters.

But I reckon I'd have found it as fabulously entertaining anyway. More thoughts (and a video) are here
James Eckman
Sep 06, 2015 James Eckman rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I made another stab at finishing this book and failed. Between the unlikable characters,the strange language, the long continuous gang fight and unreal background I found nothing that would hold my interest. A somewhat failed attempt at a first novel, or maybe it's just literature.
Paul Fulcher
Oct 26, 2015 Paul Fulcher rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, impac-winners
City of Bohane, Kevin Barry's debut novel, won the prestigious international Impac prize in 2013, one of the my favourite literary prizes as one of the few that treats translated fiction on a par with English language originals ( And his 2nd novel, Beatlebone has been shortlisted for the equally excellent Goldsmiths Prize.

So I came to this book with high expectations, albeit tempered by the detail of the Impac nomination which states that the novel "ble
Ryan Williams
Apr 14, 2017 Ryan Williams rated it liked it
Imagine a sort of mash-up between Riddley Walker and Flann O'Brien. Funny line by line, but never seems to go much of anywhere.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
#GallowglasArmy H...: OCTOBER - part one 3 4 Feb 07, 2017 11:29PM  
#GallowglasArmy H...: Slang/language 1 4 Feb 07, 2017 09:15AM  
Irish Readers: Nomination 1 14 Nov 25, 2013 09:39AM  
Irish Readers: Quarterly Irish Reads Suggestion March 2012 1 26 Feb 10, 2012 05:40AM  
  • Long Time, No See
  • Almost Never
  • Mistaken
  • The Thing About December
  • The China Factory
  • Winterwood
  • Solace
  • The Cold Eye of Heaven
  • That They May Face The Rising Sun
  • Walk the Blue Fields: Stories
  • The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty
  • The Dewey Decimal System (Dewey Decimal #1)
  • The Guts
  • From the Mouth of the Whale
  • The Meeting Point
  • Gods Without Men
  • On an Irish Island
  • Birchwood
Kevin Barry is an Irish writer. He is the author of two collections of short stories, and the novel City of Bohane, which was the winner of the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
More about Kevin Barry...

Share This Book

“Tricky the paths a long love might follow, like the spiral down twists of a raindrop on a windowpane.” 6 likes
“One might trouble one's dainty snout with a whiff of the taleggio displayed in an artisanal cheese shop, or take a saucer of jasmine tea and a knuckle of fennel-scented snuff at a counter of buffed Big Nothing granite. But there was a want in these ladies yet, and it was for the rude life of youth.” 3 likes
More quotes…