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The Dead School

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  630 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
From the award-winning author of "The Butcher Boy" comes a new novel of extraordinary power that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "confirm[s] McCabe's standing as one of the most brilliant writers to ever come out of Ireland".In "The Dead School", Patrick McCabe returns to the emotionally dense landscape of small-town Ireland to explore the inner lives of two men ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 2nd 1996 by Delta (first published 1995)
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Mar 07, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish, autographed
Is it ever too late to forgive?

Two men, a generation or so apart, begin to plumment, in Dublin in the 1970s. Their descents are oddly parallel, notwithstanding the age difference; and yet they intersect, once, twice. One is a headmaster; the other a teacher. Events from their childhoods gestate, percolate and perhaps ultimately destroy. Their histories make them both time bombs.

So too the stories of these two men are written parallel to each other, but intersecting from time to time. Their lives
Apr 11, 2007 kerri rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teachers
This is a book that haunts and resonates long after you read it. It speaks alot to the inevitability of change and the fear of becoming professional, intellectually, and personally obsolete. It is sad and painful, a story that makes you hurt but one that also makes you smile. It is one of the many books that I read at least once a year.
Jan 20, 2013 Jenny rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
At first I didn't like it couldn't get into it. After I was about a third of the way through I started to want to know what would befall the two main characters. I didn't really like the way the book was laid out or the style of the narrative and I found it hard to have any sympathy for the characters maybe it was because they where teachers and I found teachers in Primary school where often people who where often unkind to they're pupils and so myself have a little bit of a thing against the ty ...more
Matt Wesolowski
Jan 21, 2014 Matt Wesolowski rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite books of all time. Like Ketchum's 'The Girl Next Door', The Dead School leaves a permanent brand on your emotions. I am yet to read a book that fills me with such a haunting melancholy as this one.
Magnificent work by an author whose work has provided unlimited joy to me throughout my life.
Feb 14, 2016 P rated it did not like it
Shelves: literary-fiction
So lousy I am amazed it got published! The contrived plot, the unsympathetic protagonists, the one-dimensional women, the super annoying caricatured Irish tone. What precisely was McCabe's point? Irish women should never be in charge of their own destinies because they will either cheat on their husbands and traumatize their sons, walk out on the guy who will never be able to love again, or have abortions and ruin a school along with the life of its dedicated principal? Was this a warning to any ...more
Jenna  Wolfstone
Apr 13, 2008 Jenna Wolfstone rated it it was ok
The life of two men, up until they meet---one an uptight headmaster and the other an incompetent teacher. They meet, their lives unravel,they blame each other. First 3/4 is awesome, I skimmed the rest. Same author of 'the butcher boy,' a violent story that literally lacked punctuation. I'd say the last quarter of the book is reminiscent of the Butcher Boy...ugh. Such a disappointment.
Rebecca Gibson
Apr 30, 2013 Rebecca Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
definitely the most depressing book i have read so far this year, e.g. 'dead babies and children' actually became a motif by the end of the book. in the hands of a lesser author this would have been piling on the heartache/tragedy etc. for the sake of it but i think McCabe's real achievement is that it doesn't feel like that at all - it genuinely does read like a modern tragedy.
Sep 07, 2014 Kasandra rated it really liked it
McCabe has the haunting ability to immerse you in interior monologue that deftly describes fits of anxiety, bouts of unbelievable joy, philosophical pondering, suicidality, and madness, all with seeming ease and in a completely believable vernacular. You spend most of your time in this novel inside the head of one of two protagonists, both of them completely drawn and intriguing in nearly opposite ways. I particularly enjoyed both the humor and the natural self-centeredness in both mens' interna ...more
Rachel d.
Jan 06, 2012 Rachel d. rated it it was ok
i kept waiting for something to happen. It kept almost happening.
A. Mary
Apr 27, 2014 A. Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-novels
This is the story of two lives, which intersect briefly, and then careen off on their own trajectories. McCabe explores the ways in which a life of effort and duty and uprightness and achievement can suddenly be sideswiped and spin off into outer space. He shows how some shattering event in childhood can lie in wait and become a festering wound in later life. Not everything is rational and methodical and predictable. Life in bumper cars is what McCabe presents here. Sometimes we don't understand ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Michelle rated it it was ok
To be honest I didn't enjoy this book one bit I'm just glad the chapters were kept short enough to keep me reading I couldn't wait to get to the end of it, I saw no reason for these 2 men to be joined together, a very melancholy story indeed
Christine Bowen
Aug 05, 2014 Christine Bowen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a great exhilarating read although the subject matter is very bleak. Not read a writer that can pull this off before - did feel down for a while when I finished it as it is a very depressing story beneath the humour . Will read Butcher Boy at some point.
Jun 20, 2014 Paganqueen rated it did not like it
Started off promisingly enough but quickly ground to a halt. I found the characters' regression really annoying and whiny. Maybe I am missing something but I finished it out of spite and will not recommend it to anyone.
April Coffey
Mar 08, 2016 April Coffey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary
Patrick McCabe is probably one of the most underrated Irish writers of all time. As Dark as Ian Banks. Didn't think he could top the Butcher Boy but he did!
Derek Bridge
Jan 22, 2014 Derek Bridge rated it really liked it
This early McCabe has the distinction of charting the descent into madness of not one, but two characters. Their collision is expertly and entertainingly plotted. There is, too, a freshness that, for me, has deserted the later McCabe, forever treading this ground.
Feb 21, 2013 Sue rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013-reads
I had to give up after 60 pages, I found this a highly frustrating reading experience. The narrative seems really forced, falling into a stilted 'bog irish' voice, it was only missing an occasional 'begosh & begorrah'!
The elements of the story I did read before giving up, was dark and the female character were almost caricatures.

It probably didn't help me that early on I felt that the narrative was like Dougal (a character from the TV show Father Ted) stream of consciousness, and couldn't g
Aug 26, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it
Very good storyteller.
Aug 18, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
An interesting book. I have read very few Irish books. I enjoyed the '..or what the hell is wrong with you?' so strange but I guess it makes more sense than just plain old, 'or what?'

The saddest book in the world.

Excellent writing.
Liam J
May 22, 2015 Liam J rated it really liked it
Thx E & E for b'day present- only took me 9 years to read it !!!
Like the Butcher Boy in style.
Jun 23, 2007 Chris rated it liked it
Recommends it for: teachers on the verge of a nervous breakdown
I was not a big a fan of this book as I had been of McCabe's other work, but the plot is sort of fun, in a horrible sort of way. Two characters on a simultaneous plummet towards the depths because of their obsessions with the way things were. It could have been any two people, but the fact that it's about a teacher and a headmaster made it a little more applicable to my personal experience. At least no one's ever died on my watch.
Nicholaus Patnaude
Apr 11, 2013 Nicholaus Patnaude rated it it was amazing
To draw a classroom in chalk and cobwebs while a child drowns confirms the worst day of work imaginable to be a spiral not only carved in ice but also a hollowing to the very soul of a flippant, Midnight Cowboy existence beset by dreams scrawled on the bathroom walls of a pub where the music playing might be a a tendril linked to a new leaf covered with dew tears.
Jun 22, 2016 Martha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
couldn't finish it
Oct 28, 2013 Hannah rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book.
Do not read this book. Please. Spare yourself. If you do read this book, do not read the end before bed.
This is a profoundly, existentially horrifying book. It's also very funny, because that's how the Irish sort of are, but this book is not a book to read if you want to feel mildly pleasant about the act of being alive.
Oct 08, 2007 Scott rated it it was ok
Shelves: novel
This was a tough read for all the adults being so messed up. Another good example, although only literature, that adults shouldn't teach anything to anyone in a classroom ever. Ouch! I see why McCabe thanked Tadeusz Kantor, presumably for his Dead Class theatre piece. Ah mannequins!
Aishling O'Neill
Jul 19, 2014 Aishling O'Neill rated it really liked it
This book was very good but you really need to be in the right frame of mind for it because it's very depressing. I did have to break half way through and read something a bit lighter. But I stuck it out after and I'm glad I read it. I am now going on to read The Butcher Boy.
Sep 21, 2008 Adrian rated it liked it
An interesting read....The characters sort of disintegrated in a not particularly nice way so I didn't know how to take the book...Teacher friends of mine liked it which surprised me as it didn't portray teachers in a great light
Annie Pearce
Apr 29, 2011 Annie Pearce rated it really liked it
I had to read this as part of my A-Level literature course in college and absolutely loved it (it made a change from the other books we were forced to read!). It's dark humour and creepy storyline are fanatically written, I recommend!
Kerrie O'Neill
Feb 16, 2015 Kerrie O'Neill rated it it was amazing
I don't have to words to do this justice, it's an amazing book. I don't know how he does it. The dialect is spot on. It's tragic and darkly comic a book that will stay with you for a long time.
Mar 22, 2013 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A captivating yet terrorising read. How human nature can spiral down into the abyss so easily is a frightening, but salutary, lesson. This was an uncomfortable yet magnificent read.
Oct 08, 2007 Henny rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the first McCabe book I read. It is a very painful book to read also. Poignant and well-written, it resonates long after you've placed it back on the shelf.
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Patrick McCabe came to prominence with the publication of his third adult novel, The Butcher Boy, in 1992; the book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in Britain and won the Irish Times-Aer Lingus Prize for fiction. McCabe's strength as an author lies in his ability to probe behind the veneer of respectability and conformity to reveal the brutality and the cloying and corrupting stagnation of Ir ...more
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“When I am at my work each day
In the fields so fresh and green
I often think of riches and the way things might have been
But believe me when I tell you when I get home each day
I'm as happy as a sandboy with my wee cup of tay”
More quotes…