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June 2018: Magical Realism > Himself by Jess Kidd - 4 stars

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message 1: by Joy D (new)

Joy D | 4606 comments Himself by Jess Kidd - 4 stars
(3.5 stars rounded up due to the writing style)

Dark historical fiction set in Ireland in the 1940’s – 1950’s and 1970’s about a young man (Mahony) orphaned as a baby who, after reading a letter with implying his teenage mother was forced to give him up, returns to his birthplace to figure out what happened. When he arrives, he is viewed as an outsider, and is befriended by an eccentric older woman (Mrs. Cauley) with a theatrical past. It soon becomes apparent that the townspeople know more about his mother’s disappearance than they are willing to admit, and the two collaborate to trace clues back to the source, while dealing with narrow-mindedness and intolerance hidden behind righteous indignation and morality.

This book contains an unusual mix of crime, mystery, paranormal, and magical realism. The writing is eloquent and evocative, and the author is particularly adept at describing the environment of the small village of Mulderrig. Kidd uses Mahony’s ability to see ghosts to set the secretive tone of the town and provide comic relief in the form of gallows humor when the narrative veers toward the macabre. In addition to the paranormal, the author employs a magical realism element, which is used to show the decay, collective guilt, and fear gripping the town. It gave the novel a folkloric, organic, almost Gothic ambiance. The two primary characters are well drawn, and easily envisioned: the charismatic, somewhat disreputable Mahony and the enigmatic, curmudgeonly Mrs. Cauley. Where the book falls down a bit is in the plot development and pacing. It starts off with a bang, bogs down in the middle, and becomes frantic at the end. I am probably not the best audience for this book, as I’m not a huge fan of paranormal tales.

Content warnings include graphic violence to humans and animals, including grisly descriptions of murder, incest, infidelity, prostitution, animal abuse, and child abuse. Recommended to readers that enjoy crime mysteries, or stories involving the supernatural and the macabre.

Link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 2: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 6850 comments I really enjoyed this when I read it and your review made me enjoy it all over again. I completely forgot the magical realism element to it. I read it in our Ireland month.

I hope your review encourages others to read it. Himself is quite a character.


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