“The best novel to come out of Ireland since Ulysses.” Irvine Welsh
“A grizzled piece of futuristic Irish noir with strong ties to the classic gang epics of yore . . . Virtuosic.” The New Yorker
“I found Kevin Barry's City of Bohane a thrilling and memorable first novel.” Kazuo Ishiguro, from the Man Booker Prize interview
“As you prowl the streets of Bohane with Barry's motley assortment of thugs and criminal masterminds, you will find yourself drawn into their world and increasingly sympathetic to their assorted aims and dreams.” The Boston Globe
“The real star here is Barry's language, the music of it. Every page sings with evocative dialogue, deft character sketches, impossibly perfect descriptions of the physical world.” The Millions
“Splendidly drawn . . . Strikingly creative.” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), Grade: A
City of Bohane, the extraordinary first novel by the Irish writer Kevin Barry, is full of marvels…marvels of language, invention, surprise. Savage brutality is here, but so is laughter. And humanity. And the abiding ache of tragedy…In prose that is both dense and flowing, Barry takes us on a roaring journey, among human beings who are trapped in life its own damned self. Nostalgia grips many of them, even when they slash angrily at sentimentality. None of it is real, yet all of it feels true. This powerful, exuberant fiction is as true as the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, the Yoknapatawpha County of William Faulkner and, in a different way, even the Broadway of Damon Runyon. Those places were not real. The stories remain true.
The New York Times Book Review
Barry’s debut novel, a near-future noir, takes readers on a walking tour of Bohane, an apocalyptic fictional city on Ireland’s west coast. One of its seedier precincts, the Back Trace, is ruled by underworld boss Logan Hartnett of the Hartnett Fancy gang, who governs like an Irish Don Corleone. But the graying Hartnett finds his power threatened when his rival, the Gant Broderick, returns after a 25-year absence. Hartnett also has to cope with an upstart gang, the Cusacks, that wants to take over the Trace. To make matters worse, his wife, Macu, who is also the Gant’s former lover, wants him to give up the life. And finally, tough Fancy girl Jenni Ching, a “saucy little ticket” with a “pack of feral teenage sluts at her beck ’n’ call in the Bohane Trace,” may be playing both ends against the middle. How Hartnett handles these various crises forms the dramatic core, but with so many literary influences running through it, the novel reads as if China Miéville and Irvine Welsh had collaborated to update Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. Although this sort of future-shock noir is nothing new and the elliptical narrative peters out before it reaches its inconclusive climax, the author succeeds with a continual barrage of hybrid language reminiscent of Anthony Burgess at his A Clockwork Orange best. (Mar.)
Gangland warfare rules the day in an imagined, decivilized Irish city. Roll up Joyce, Dickens, Anthony Burgess and Marty Scorsese, sprinkle with a dash of Terry Gilliam, and smoke up. That's roughly the literary experience to be had from ingesting this marvelously mashed-up creation from Irish storyteller Barry (There Are Little Kingdoms, 2007). The author goes for broke in constructing his fictional City of Bohane, a once-great city on the west coast of Ireland that has taken 40 years to fall into utter decay. The setting is a rich stew of ethnicities, loyalties, gangster cred, vices and technologically barren conflicts. Different provinces promise different pleasures: parallel streets in New Town, barely controlled chaos in the Back Trace, fetish parlors and shooting galleries in Smoketown, all behind the moat of the Big Nothin'. Pulling the strings on this criminality is Logan Hartnett, a gaunt, pale rake called "The Albino." Hartnett is beleaguered by harpy wife Immaculata and protected by a trio of young warriors: ambitious Wolfie Stanners, irrepressible Fucker Burke and razor-cool Jenni Ching, who works all sides with equal aplomb. A "welt of vengeance" threatens to jump off, after a Cusack of the Rises gets "Reefed" in Smoketown. Make sense? Much like the fiction of Irvine Welsh, the vernacular takes some acclimatization. Stirring the pot is the fact that Hartnett's mortal enemy, "The Gant Broderick," has sashayed back into town. "Halways pikey, halfways whiteman. Been gone outta the creation since back in the day. Was the dude used to have the runnins before the Long Fella. Use' t'do a line with the Long Fella's missus an' all, y'check?" explains Wolfie in his messy patois. The familiar gangland drama won't come as any great surprise, pulling in traces of pulp fiction, cop flicks and the grittier dystopian films into its gravity, but its style is breathlessly cool. Barry's addictive dialect and faultless confidence make this volatile novel a rare treat.