The Butcher Boy
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The Butcher Boy

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  3,644 ratings  ·  245 reviews
"I was thinking how right ma was -- Mrs. Nugent all smiles when she met us and how are you getting on Mrs and young Francis are you both well? . . .what she was really saying was: Ah hello Mrs Pig how are you and look Philip do you see what's coming now -- The Pig Family!"

This is a precisely crafted, often lyrical, portrait of the descent into madness of a young killer i

Paperback, 231 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Delta (first published 1992)
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The Butcher Boy or Francie Brady’s Descent Into MADNESS (<--imagine I’m using my best Dan Rather for 48 Hours Mystery voice there)

At first I thought this was going to be a sort of case study in the makings of a sociopath (failure to conform to social norms – check; deceitfulness – check; disregard for safety of others – check; consistent irresponsibility-check; check; check; check). But oh no, it is far far worse than that for our little Francie Brady. Francie Brady skips right through sociop...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 09, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2008-2012)
A story about a boy, Francie Brady who becomes a criminal simply because of the situation he finds himself in. His father is a drunkard and his battered mother has a suicidal tendency. He has a good friend, like Tom is to Huck, Joe but one day they steal the comics collection of another boy, Phillip and the boy's mother is so angry she calls Francie's family PIGS. Feeling disappointed with how his father treated his uncle Alo who he admires, Francie goes to Dublin and becomes a petty thief. When...more
Bill  Kerwin

This is a powerful book, one that fills the reader with pity and terror. The protagonist is Francie Brady, a sort of Irish Huckleberry Finn, with three important differences: 1) Francie still yearns to be respectable, 2) he has no wise Jim to guide him, and 3) he is despised by his town and betrayed by Joe, his own Tom Sawyer. Alas, there is no Mississippi river to escape to, and the book ends in blood and madness. Yet--and this is one of the strange strengths of the book--it is narrated by Fran...more
Ben Winch
When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent.

From memory, this is the first sentence of The Butcher Boy, a book that meant a lot to me fifteen or twenty years ago when I was a young man and lived in a town in the Adelaide Hills. Just the fact that I remember the line proves the book affected me; I don't remember many first lines but for all-time classics like 'Somebody must have been telling lies...more
There are certain books I've read that are so intense that they have left an indelible print on me, despite what I've thought of the book overall. Over the years that list has grown and include Jerzy Kosinksi's The Painted Bird, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, and Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. I can now add Patrick McCabe's The Butcher Boy to that list.

This first-person stream-of-consciousness narrative takes some getting used to. Francie Brady reflect...more
"When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent".


The Butcher Boy is a darkly comic yet disturbing novel by Irish author Patrick McCabe. Set in a small town in Ireland in the early 1960s, it tells the story of Francis "Francie" Brady, a 12 year old boy who retreats into a violent fantasy world to escape the reality of his dysfunctional family. Francie's father is an ex-musician and a...more
The Butcher Boy is one of those amazing books that you hope won't end. I read other reviews in which people said that it is depressing, and yes it is if you look at the plot outline of a mentally disturbed boy who doesn't have the best of luck. However there is a lot of dark humour in it that has you giggling despite yourself. The plot is dark, there are some very disturbing issues like Paedophilia, suicide etc... but by showing it through the eyes of a mad boy these topics are not touched in a...more
The Crimson Fucker
Leave The paper to pick you next read and like me you may find yourself reading a disturbing as fuck, scary as hell, beautiful jewel like this… in other words… this books creepy but awesome! and fun ontop of that!
Jul 12, 2008 Spudsie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Spudsie by: 2007 SRL
Typically I try to record how a book leaves me feeling, any lessons I may have learned from it or even my overall mood when I’m finished. This may turn out to be my shortest commentary to date.


Yup. I feel so lost. Confused. Puzzled. ?????

When I read books I want the story and characters to unfold and reveal themselves to me as the author intended. To that end I try not to read any reviews or commentaries about a book right before I start it. When I’m finished reading it I try to put my...more
McCabe's impressive novel deserves credit for fearlessly tackling some very tricky literary territory. Francie Brady's lengthy, unbridled interior monologue is compounded with his increasing unreliability as a narrator.

You see, young Francie is going mad. His quickening psychosis is convincingly made apparent by his churning verbal output - as Brady's perception fragments, so does ours. His orange sky/frozen puddle/pigs/fish in the river imagery teams up and blends in so well with his obsessive...more
Absolutely phenomenal. This is a must-read for anyone with a heart who can stand a bit of the old ultraviolence. It would be terribly reductive to describe this novel as a mashup of The Catcher in the Rye and A Clockwork Orange, so I won't describe it as such, but its narrator definitely has that Holdenesque naivete and charm to him, and the language, while not as inventive as Burgess', is still a lot of fun. I kept telling people about the book as I was reading it and my descriptions all sounde...more
Previously with "Breakfast on Pluto" I got the "feel" of this Irish writer. He loves his readers to fully embody his fully-realized protagonist; one enjoys the rational irrationalities that litter a wartorn broken psyche of Francie, a pauper who is taken in by the community only to be persecuted for a hideous crime. Think of an Irish Charley from "Flowers for Algernon."

Think too of "A Clockwork Orange." The ultraviolence and a masterful, invented dialogue is evident here. Francie is a psychopath...more
Can children be evil? In literature this is certainly the case. I am reminded of the evil little girl, Rhoda Penmark, in The Bad Seed by William March. In Patrick McCabe's third novel we have a rival for Rhoda with Francie Brady. It is a journey into the heart of darkness: the mind of a desperately troubled kid one step away from madness and murder. Francie Brady is a schoolboy in a small town in Ireland. His father is a mean drunk and his mother a slovenly housekeeper, but Francie has a good bu...more
This novel has several things going for it: a style that is both unique and engaging; a narrator that is as charmingly funny as he is frightening, and a beginning that hooks you immediately.

However, in spite of these things, I'm still not sure if I like this novel on the whole. Although Francie's style of narration is engaging at first, it starts to get on the nerves by the middle of the book. While this might be part of the point of the novel, it nevertheless ends up coming off as "and then thi...more
J.J. Toner
This is a truly wonderful book. I read it in less than two days, devouring every word, dissecting the prose to extract the factual from the imagined from the dialogue. This was easy for me, although I can see how it might be difficult for readers not so familiar with Irish idiom (and the comic books of the sixties).

Other reviewers spoke about the violence in the book, but there is hardly any, and what there is occurs close to the end and is treated in a characteristically off-hand way.

I loved it...more
It's always something of a risk to write a story in which the boundary between internal psychological experiences and actual events becomes blurred. This isn't because doing so is a bad idea or somehow incompatible with good storytelling; on the contrary, many great works of fiction perch on the unstable foundation of an ambiguous relationship between a character's personal illusions and his or her reality. The risk comes in how easy it can be to construct a narrative with an untenable balance b...more
Literature is filled with monsters: the charming young near-prostitute Lolita and her even more loathsome sugar daddy Humbert Humbert, the self-absorbed Cécile of “Bonjour Tristesse”, the scent prodigy Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the urbane cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Why readers become enthralled with these creatures is unclear, ill defined and perhaps illuminates a quality in ourselves we don’t want to examine too closely.

Mr. McCabe’s Francie Brady is just such a human beast. Only partially educa...more
“The Butcher Boy” was a very pleasant surprise, I got much more than I expected.

The story is quite basic: a young boy from a rather disfunctional family descends (triggered events in his home and community) from mere antisocialness into madness.

The true delight of this novel lies in the masterfully conducted stream of consiosness, in the finest tradition of a William Faulkner, James Joyce or Virginia Woolfe. Embedded in torn and shredded language, you will find yourself sucked into the protagon...more
Lee Bullitt
Sep 22, 2008 Lee Bullitt rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: fans of irish literature or McCabe, those who are caring
One of the saddest, and most compelling stories I have read as of late. Patrick McCabe is quite an author, his writing style makes it easy to get through a book in one day, and the tales that he does tell are gripping. I felt so lost as I learned more and more about Francie, I wish I could have been in the book with him. Telling him everything was okay, that I "wouldn't let him down" like all the rest. That, of course it wasn't and couldn't be his fault about his mother. And that yes, he father...more

One of the best books I've ever had to read for school.

The diction takes some getting used to as there are no punctuations, save for the ever essential period. It takes stream-of-consciousness to a whole other level. You're never quite sure if its Francie thinking, Francie speaking, Francie recalling a memory and don't even get me started on actual conversations. You'll have to navigate your own way between who's saying what. I make it sound like its a difficult book to get through an...more
LOVE it. Id kept coming across the word 'disturbing' in the description of this book, and while there were a couple of moments, I felt that it constantly kept going back to the humourous. I had a lot of good laughs while reading this book despite the seriousness of the themes and all the awful events that happen to our protagonist.

It kind of serves as a lesson to how harmful it is to be judgemental, but you do also see the unfortunate way the mind of Francie Brady sees or makes sense of whats h...more
When I started this book I was horrified. Maybe a better discription would be terrified. Patrick McCabe's character Francis Brady retreats into a violent fantasy world as his world around him collapses into chaos. Very very dark.

At some point while reading, probably when Francis was sent to go to school with the Priests, I stopped being terrifing and began to laugh. What was going on in Francis' head and then how he then interacted with the world cracked me up at times. I mean, the "Francie Brad...more
McCabe's The Butcher Boy tells the profoundly depressing coming-of-age tale of an Irish boy who wants nothing more than for life to go back to the way it was before his mother died, a time when he and his best friend played in puddles, read comic books, and hid in the chicken coop; a time when things were normal. His patterns of broken behavior and thought becomes more clear (to the reader anyway) as the butcher boy makes worse and worse decisions. I've read many reviews calling this book "distu...more
emi Bevacqua
This haunting novel is about a little boy growing up in 1960's Ireland in a completely dysfunctional household with a suicidal mother and alcoholic father. Written in kind of a psychotic stream of consciousness, Francie's wreckless descent into madness would be unbearable to witness were it not for the hilarity that Patrick McCabe maintains throughout.

I'm curious to know what The Butcher Boy by Colin MacCabe is. Patrick McCabe's version won the 1992 Irish Time Aer Lingus Prize, and was made in...more
Vaguely written in a stream of conciousness style. It might be a bit daunting for many less determined readers to tackle. But I had seen the movie first and knew this was worth the task. McCabe is almost disturbingly accurate in portraying the mindset of a seriously disturbed child. But you can't help but love the character and identify with all his madness. All in all a heart wrenching story of friendship and the desperation it can lead you to.
I found myself both pained by the process of reading this novel, as well as flummoxed by how I managed to stew about it a great deal. The grammar pained me at first, but it grew easier as I progressed. It becomes very accessible the longer you immerse yourself in the writing. In the end, what really bothered me about it was not the incessent run-ons and lack of punctuation, it was the times where I really struggled to figure out what was going on. It was a sense of unclarity in the telling, a ba...more
A fantastic story that grabbed me at the beginning and held on until the end. The story takes place in a small village in Ireland circa the early 1960s. A young teenaged boy, Francie, with a suicidal mother, and an alcoholic father, in desperate need of love and attention starts his decent into madness when his best friend, Joe, matures and leaves Francie behind. An absolute spellbinder.
Amy I experienced such a wide range of emotions while reading this: disgust, pity, sadness, horror..and those are just to name a few. McCabe does a great job of getting the reader wrapped up into Francie's miserable existence. Unlike Holden Caulfield, you can find reasons to feel bad for this kid. However, Holden never did horrific things which makes this book so much more complicated.
Peter Mccafferty
Really solid book, great voice, stylistically delightful... also horrifying. All sorts of quotes adorning the covers declaring the hilariousness of it... there isn't anything funny about this book... nothing funny about the genesis of a delusional and often psychotic sociopath. I'm on the tree star four star fence so I'll credit young Francis with the extra star.
I would give this a trillion billion million stars if I could. I am sure there's nothing original left to say about it. It's a good companion to Cruddy by Lynda Barry. Both books punch you in the face and devastate you and at the same time the perfect writing makes you ecstatic.
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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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“All the beautiful things in this world are lies. They count for nothing in the end.” 4 likes
“Oh now now he says that's all over you must forget all about that next week your solitary finishes how about that hmm? I felt like laughing in his face: How can your solitary finish? That's the best laugh yet.” 3 likes
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