Ethel Rohan's Reviews > City of Bohane

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
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's review
Dec 14, 2011

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 brilliant molding of lyric language, the work holds up a truth about the Irish psyche that has long and deeply troubled me: A savage violence. We're fierce about land, love, family, and reputation and all that brings out both the worst and the best in us. Of course in both Irish life and literature, it helps that however dire our circumstances and dark our urges, we know how to have a good time. City of Bohane is also, thankfully, sprinkled with wit, humor and humanity.

This novel won't be for everyone. City of Bohane is not an easy read and requires work of the reader. There's a large and colorful--and sometimes confusing--cast, dense dialect and colloquialisms, and visceral violence. Hell, Barry even makes up words throughout, and delightfully so. For me, it is the strange, twisted and beautiful language that makes this novel so compelling. As I read, I felt fortunate to gawp at this wondrous treasure trove of Barry's creativity and mastery.

I could qualify all of the above with 'in my humble opinion,' but feck that.
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Comments (showing 1-2)

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Steve Terrific book. I was really impressed by the way Barry avoids fetishizing the violence, or allowing the violence to become the whole story. That happens so often in stories about gangsters that are ostensibly critical but end up seeming more celebratory.

Ethel Rohan Agreed, a terrific book, and nothing infuriates me more than romanticizing, fetishizing, and celebrating violence, all of which, alas, is widespread.

On a happier note, I giggled to myself when you referred to Langrishe, Go Down. I don't know of anyone else who has read that book and I remember it as beautifully written and terribly sad.

I wish you continued happy reading, Steve.


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