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Night Boat to Tangier
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Archive: Other Books > Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry - 4 stars

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Joy D | 3193 comments Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry - 4 stars - My Review

Two fifty-something Irish ex-drug runners, Charlie and Maurice, are sitting near the docks of Algeciras, Spain, waiting on a series of boats to arrive from or depart to Tangier, Morocco. They are looking for Maurice’s estranged twenty-three-year-old daughter, Dilly, not seen in three years. As they watch and wait, they reminisce about their exploits, loves, and losses. “The Irishmen look out blithely at the faces that pass by in a blur of the seven distractions—love, grief, pain, sentimentality, avarice, lust, want-of-death.”

The scenes alternate between the current-day, 2018, and the past twenty-five years in Ireland and Spain, where it becomes obvious that they have been both friends and adversaries. Many of the flashbacks pertain to the tumultuous relationship between Maurice and his late wife. Barry also portrays their nefarious activities, including drugs, violence, bad investments, money laundering, betrayals, and various overindulgences. Ultimately it is about the price the two protagonists have paid for their unsavory lifestyle: loss of family, guilt, regrets, and, ultimately, a wasted life.

The author excels at atmospheric scene-setting descriptions. In fact, the primary strength of this novel is in the outstanding writing, particularly the vivid imagery. “As they watched from their eyrie at St. Luke’s, the winter crept in to smother the city with greys and dense mists and the city fell to a drugged slumber. It was moving to watch its lights burn through the riversmoke at dusk.”

After initially not liking the characters and the liberal use of the f-bomb, I gradually became invested in the story, trying to understand how a family could operate in such horrible circumstances. It is a dark story with a small ray of optimism. “There comes a time when you just have to live among your ghosts. You keep the conversation going. Elsewise the broad field of the future opens out as nothing but a vast emptiness.”


Susie | 4488 comments I adored this book. I’m glad you liked it too.


Joy D | 3193 comments It definitely grew on me. I just love the author's writing style.


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