City of BohaneCity of Bohane by Kevin Barry
My rating: 4/5 cats
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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 place in ireland, but some future-ireland that is unlike the ireland i love, in fiction anyway. and it is in dialect. sort of. not the pitch-perfect dialogue of tana french’s Faithful Place, which made me feel wonderful, but an invented dialect, complete with burgess-esque slang and cadence that is very jarring.

i mean, you tell me:

a pack of wannabe Fancy boys – fourteenish, hormonal, all bumfluff ‘taches and suicide eyes, with the wantaway croak of bravado in their breaking voices – traced the hipsway of the rhythm outside the calypso joint, drew circles in the air with the winkled tips of their patent booties, passed along a coochie – eight of ’em drawin’ on it – and they kept watch – so shyly – on the Cafe Aliados down the way.

you see??

the Gant’s humours were in a rum condition – he was about fit for a bleed of leeches. his moods were too swift on the turn. he was watchful of them. he had a sack of tawny wine on him. he untwisted its cap and took a pull on it for the spurt of life – medicinal. there was pikey blood in the Gant, of course – the name, even, was an old pikey handle- but then there’s pikey blood in most of us around this city. have a sconce at the old gaatch of us – the slope-shouldered carry, the belligerence of the stride, the smoky hazel of our eyes; officer material we are not. of course if you were going by the reckoning of pikey bones the Gant was old bones now for certain. he was fifty years to paradise.

and usually that would give me fits.

but after a while, you kind of get into it. and even though the book expects much from its readership – understanding a ton of clans, geography, inbred feuds, unfamiliar expressions – i thought it was a great read.

but it is a bludgeoning one.

it’s strange – stripped of its vernacular, the book can be reduced to two sentences: people fight. a marriage is tested.

that is it, honestly. but it isn’t simply emptiness masked by linguistic cleverness.

the world-building is phenomenal. it reminded me, a little, of both Aurorarama and The Gone-Away World, but i thought it was much more successful than either. once you get into the rhythm of it, it is incredibly rich and satisfying, and with the other two, i had a lot of difficulty making sense of the world, but in this one, i felt more grounded.

but there were some strange decisions. why so much focus on the clothing? i swear, there was so much of this, and always in this format:

ol’ boy wore:

high-top boots expensively clicker’d with gold taps, a pair of hip-hugging jodhpur-style pants in a faded mauve tone, an amount of gold chains, a heave mink coat to keep out the worst of the hardwind’s assaults and a goatskin beanie hat set pavee-style at the crown of his head.

it’s a weird quirk in an already-quirky book. it definitely provides a strong mental image, but the whole name-followed-by-colon setup made me unhappy.

but there is a character named fucker burke and one named wolfie stanners, so that’s obviously awesome.

fucker wore:

silver high-top boots, drainpipe strides in a natty-boy mottle, a low-slung dirk belt and a three-quarter jacket of saffron-dyed sheepskin. he was tall and straggly as an invasive weed. he was astonishingly sentimental, and as violent again. his belligerent green eyes were strange flowers indeed. he was seventeen years of age and he read magical significance into occurrences of the number nine. he had ambition deep inside but could hardly even name it. his true love: an unpredictable Alsatian bitch name of Angelina.

and when i read that, i thought, “maybe that is just this-book-slang for “german.” but – nope. an actual dog.


so, yeah. i liked this. a lot. but i do not know what anyone besides me will make of it.

read it and tell me, why don’t you?

read my reviews on goodreads

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