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City of Bohane

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,754 ratings  ·  569 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
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Tony but he's also mashing up other things too -- there are strong elements of Jamaican music and style in the book.…morebut he's also mashing up other things too -- there are strong elements of Jamaican music and style in the book.(less)

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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  3,754 ratings  ·  569 reviews

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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
I donned my virtual reality headset, clicked the Bohane game with the trigger button of my handset, and next thing, I was standing in the dark on the edge of a pier. A black and murky river gurgled beneath me. I stepped back into the safety of a warehouse doorway but such a fierce howling started up that I nearly jumped out of my virtual skin. There must have been a dozen Rottweilers trying to get at me so I moved away from the warehouse towards the lights of a bar further along the docks. I cou ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
This is my second experience of Kevin Barry - I read the equally compelling and original but very different Beatlebone in January. This one is a mixture of genres that I would normally steer well clear of - gangland thriller, dystopian fantasy, steampunk and graphic novel cliches abound. What carries it is the sheer vibrancy and humour of the language and the many cultural reference points that echo the likes of Joyce and Flann O'Brien.

The setting is the fictional city of Bohane, on the west coa
Jun 09, 2013 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
Rob Kitchin
May 07, 2012 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
Ethel Rohan
Dec 14, 2011 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
Paul Fulcher
Oct 26, 2015 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
Bob Brinkmeyer
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up

Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane is a novel that is probably going either to draw you compulsively in or just as compulsively put you off, as its appeal lies less in plot than in language—and if you don’t give yourself over to the prose, the novel will in all likelihood seem audaciously weird but not much else, except perhaps grating and annoying. Set in the near future in a city in west Ireland, City of Bohane is another in the flood of dystopian novels that seem so popular these days
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing

PS, Might not be for you
Apr 11, 2012 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
Dec 02, 2012 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
Sep 26, 2011 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
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
My third Barry novel, but his first. And a very impressive debut novel it is. The story is set in a future Ireland (the year is 2053/4) where something has happened that means what we today (2020) would consider modern technology (mobile phones, for example) are non-existent, but some older technology (e.g. film cameras) is still available and in use. There is a lot of swearing, a fair amount of violence and some sex. There’s plenty of dark humour and the book is written in a language that is al ...more
Tom Heavey
Jun 21, 2013 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
Aug 31, 2011 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
Apr 28, 2013 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
Oct 19, 2011 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
Owen Curtsinger
Apr 02, 2012 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
Sep 06, 2015 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. ...more
Mar 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2021
City of Bohane? You wouldn't want to live there. Question is, would you want to read about there? Maybe the following quizzito will help:

1. Do you like books about battling mobsters?

Y -- Although the setting is some weird fictional city and the characters are borderline non-human humans, this should satisfy your yen.

N -- Take a pass.

2. Do you like books with the specter of violence (mostly) and outright violence (lesser so, but still very much so)?

Y -- People have knives and they know how to use
May 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, irishfic
Whatever's wrong with us is coming in off that river. No argument: the taint of badness in the city's air is a taint off that river. This is the Bohane river we're talking about. A blackwater surge, malevolent, it roars in off the Big Nothin' wastes and the city was spawned by it and was named for it: city of Bohane.

Set in a near-future (2053), vaguely post-apocalyptic fictional city on Ireland's west coast, City of Bohane is fueled by sex, drugs, and gang violence, written in language gorge
Mar 09, 2013 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
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia
City of Bohane takes place 40 years in the future, in a fictional Irish town by the name of Bohane. Some kind of socioeconomic calamity has taken place and the 'distant' past is referred to as "the lost times". It's unclear exactly what has transpired to bring Bohane to it's knees, but all indications are that it was something, as i say, of an economic collapse. The result is that the town is largely run by several gangs that coexist in a fragile detente. Law and order is largely impotent and r ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites-6
This is just an exceptional piece of writing. The invention never feels forced, never feels overly showy - despite how incredibly showy it might be; the man created an entire slang language, for the sake of the Sweet Baba Jay. Instead, he has breathed life into a story and city as (I daresay) only he could've done. There's sex and fighting and a city as magical as Ambergris and a future that feels both gritty and lovely all at once. If our world tends towards hell, as it very well might, I sure ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely pure and filthy electricity and lyrical canniness blended with an anachronistic and futuristic street argot that whirls past in echoes of Burgess and patois and old Irish lanes. City of Bohane is a masterpiece of a piece, and its story is a kaleidoscope of sci-fi and gangster elements as sweeping as the rapids of a river to read. I loved this story, and these characters (Fucker Burke! Wolfie Stanners! The Gant! The Long Fella!), and will read anything Kevin Barry ever writes from here ...more
Matthew Geyer
Jul 07, 2012 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
James Murphy
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The city of Bohane is a rough neighborhood. It's a dystopian city on the west coast of Ireland in a time about 40 years in the future. Its citizens have gone to seed. There's little municipal control or services. Vice reigns as various tribes and chieftains compete for dominance.

As fiction, it's a language novel. If the city isn't the central character the language is. The people of Bohane speak a kind of noir street talk made up of high slang and dialect which carries both the rhythms of Irish
Jan 22, 2014 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
Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland, iba-2011
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
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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.

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