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Himself: A Novel

Himself: A Novel

Автором Jess Kidd

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Himself: A Novel

Автором Jess Kidd

4/5 (30 оценки)
414 pages
6 hours
Mar 14, 2017


"[A] fast-paced yarn that nimbly soars above the Irish crime fiction genre Kidd clearly knows very well." —New York Times Book Review

“[A] supernaturally skillful debut.” —Vanity Fair

“A delicious, gratifying and ageless story.” —New York Journal of Books

Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant, Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives a tip one night at the bar suggesting that foul play may have led to the disappearance of his mother, he decides to return to the rural Irish village where he was born to learn what really happened twenty-six years earlier.

From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony’s presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider’s ways cause a stir among the locals, who receive him with a mixture of curiosity (the men), excitement (the women), and suspicion (the pious). It seems that his mother, Orla Sweeney, had left quite an impression on this little town—dearly beloved to some, a scourge and a menace to others. But who would have had reason to get rid of her for good?

Determined to find answers, Mahony solicits the help of brash pot-stirrer and retired actress Mrs. Cauley, and the two concoct an ingenious plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters, some from beyond the grave. What begins as a personal mission gradually becomes a quiet revolution: a young man and his town uniting against corruption of power, against those who seek to freeze their small worlds in time, to quash the sinister tides of progress and modernity come hell or high water. But what those people seem to forget is that Mahony has the dead on his side....

Centering on a small town rife with secrets and propelled by a twisting-and-turning plot, Himself is a gem of a book, a darkly comic mystery, and a beautiful tribute to the magic of language, legacy, and storytelling.
Mar 14, 2017

Об авторе

Jess Kidd is the award-winning author of Himself, Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, and Things in Jars. Learn more at JessKidd.com.

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  • Jimmy Nylon sits down and crosses his legs, ankle to knee, stretching his slacks to the limit. He has the look of someone whose soul got up and walked away in disgust a long time ago. He holds up his hands as if he’s parting a biblical sea of troubles.

  • Róisín has her sleeves rolled up to her armpits and her hair is wet with effort. Mahony feels like pulling her out of the oven by her ankles and planting kisses on every last bit of her. He tugs at the back of her apron until she laughs.

  • She cocked an imaginary pistol at him, taking aim along the steady edge of her finger. But not being the kind of girl to shoot a cowboy in the back, she holstered it again, sent a spit over the wall, and ran back into the house.

  • Her daughter had been missing for two days when the guards found her on the Carrigfine road. Her injuries were compatible with a hit-and-run. They never found out whose car it was. The ground was too dry and the tracks had all blown away.

  • But as Mahony’s body healed he had worked on her too, and he had worked a variety of magic, so that now you hardly no- tice the damage to her lovely lines. And no longer perfect, Tadhg drives her wherever the hell he wants.

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Himself - Jess Kidd



May 1950

His first blow: the girl made no noise, her dark eyes widened. She reeled a little as she bent and put the baby down. The man stood waiting.

She straightened up into his second blow, which knocked her to the ground. She fell awkwardly, with one leg crumpled beneath her. He dropped down with his knees either side of her, so that she would hardly see the light greening the trees if she looked up, but she didn’t look up. She turned her head to see her baby on the ground, with his face pale between the folds of the blanket. He’d kicked his tiny foot out, his toes all in a line like new peas in a pod. Because she couldn’t hold her son in her arms she tried to hold him with her eyes as she willed him to be quiet, to be saved.

She did not see the man’s hands as they moved but she felt each clear shock of pain in her dark little soul. She had once traced fortunes along the furrows of his palms with her dancing fingers. His hands could build walls, fell trees, and turn a bull in its tracks. His hands could circle her waist, her arm, her ankle, to lightly plot her beauty. His fingers could play songs on her spine, or tuck a strand of hair behind her ear with a mother’s tenderness. His fingers had spelt out complicated love messages on her belly as it had grown, salving the marks there with quiet reverence.

His next blow took her hearing, so that she knew her child was crying only by the shape of his mouth. She heard nothing but an endless rushing. Just like when she swam underwater in the wild Atlantic, a sea cold enough to stop your heart.

His last blow left her without sight. She lay at the edge of the world, finally willing it all to be over. She turned the mess of her face to her beautiful boy, thinking she could see him still, even through the darkness, a dim gleaming rose of the forest.

She couldn’t have known it but it was then that her baby stopped crying. The void her son had fallen into without the cradle of her gaze was immeasurable. He lay as mute as a little mushroom.

The man held her. He watched with quiet devotion as each breath she took became a difficult triumph, flecking his chest with scarlet spume. He touched her hair, sometimes stroking it back from her forehead, sometimes turning the wet skeins about his fingers. And he rocked her, small in his arms, for the longest while. As she left the world she raised her hand like a dreaming child and with blind splayed fingers touched his chest. He kissed every one of her white fingers, noticing the curves of black earth under her nails.

When she was still, the man sheared her hair and took her clothes; he would bury them later, another day, another time. He couldn’t give everything away, not now, not yet.

He looked down at her; naked and faceless she could be anyone and no one.

He wrapped her in sackcloth, rolling her body gently, tucking her limbs in carefully, swaddling her tightly.

A thick silence grew as the forest surveyed his dark work. The trees stopped whispering and the crows flew away, speechless with horror. But the child watched everything, as quiet as a stone, with his eyes big and unblinking.

Across the clearing, through the trees, the man saw the place that he would bury her: a low-tide island in the river you could wait years for and still never see. This wasn’t a coincidence; it was a benediction.

He would dig her grave in the middle of the island. She was little bigger than a stillborn calf, but still he would be sure to weight her down, for the tide was coming in.

He bathed, washing himself clean of her for the last time as the light began to die. Then he remembered that he must also claim their child or his work would not be done. He must make one final deep hole, wrap his son in a blanket and put him into the ground. The earth would fill his mouth and eat his cries. He took up his spade again.

But while the man had bathed, the forest had hidden the infant.

Great ferns had unfurled all around the child, tree roots had surrounded him, and ivy had sprung up to cloak him. Branches had bent low over his tiny head and had shaken a blessing of leaves down onto him. Badgers had banked earth all around him with their strong claws, shifting the soil furiously.

So that when the man looked about himself he could not find the child, however hard he searched.


April 1976

Mahony shoulders his rucksack, steps off the bus, and stands in the dead center of the village of Mulderrig.

Today Mulderrig is just a benign little speck of a place, uncoiled and sprawling, stretched out in the sun. Pretending to be harmless.

If Mahony could remember the place, which he can’t of course, he’d not notice many changes since he’s been gone. Mulderrig doesn’t change, fast or slowly. Twenty-six years makes no odds.

For Mulderrig is a place like no other. Here the colors are a little bit brighter and the sky is a little bit wider. Here the trees are as old as the mountains and a clear river runs into the sea. People are born to live and stay and die here. They don’t want to go. Why would they when all the roads that lead to Mulderrig are downhill so that leaving is uphill all the way?

At this time of the day the few shops are shuttered and closed, and the signs swing with an after-hours lilt and pitch, and the sun-warmed shop front letters bloom and fade. Up and down the high street, from Adair’s Pharmacy to Farr’s Outfitters, from the offices of Gibbons & McGrath Solicitors to the Post Office and General Store, all is quiet.

A couple of old ones are sitting by the painted pump in the middle of the square. You’ll get no talk from them today: they are struck dumb by the weather, for it hasn’t rained for days and days and days. It’s the hottest April in living and dead memory. So hot that the crows are flying with their tongues hanging out of their heads.

The driver nods to Mahony. It’s as if a hundred summers have come at once to the town, when a mile along the coast the rain’s hopping up off the ground and there’s a wind that would freeze the tits off a hen. If you ask me, says the driver, it all spells a dose of trouble.

Mahony watches the bus turn out of the square in a broiling cloud of dirt. It rolls back, passengerless, across the narrow stone bridge that spans a listless river. In this weather anything that moves will be netted in a fine caul of dust. Although not much is moving now, other than a straggle of kids pelting home late, leaving their clear cries ringing behind. The mammies are inside making the tea and the daddies are inside waiting to go out for a jar. And so Tadhg Kerrigan is the first living soul in the village to see Mahony back.

Tadhg is propping up the saloon door of Kerrigan’s Bar having changed a difficult barrel and threatened a cellar rat with his deadly tongue. He is setting his red face up to catch a drop of sun while scratching his arse with serious intent. He has been thinking of the Widow Farelly, of her new-built bungalow, the prodigious whiteness of her net curtains and the pigeon plumpness of her chest.

Tadhg gives Mahony a good hard stare across the square as he walks over to the bar. With looks like that, thinks Tadhg, the fella is either a poet or a gobshite, with the long hair and the leather jacket and the walk on it, like his doesn’t smell.

All right so?

I’m grand, says Mahony, putting his rucksack down and smiling up through his hair, an unwashed variety that’s grown past his ears and then some.

Tadhg decides that this fella is most definitely a gobshite.

Whether the dead of Mulderrig agree or not it’s difficult to tell, but they begin to look out cautiously from bedroom windows or drift faintly down the back lanes to stop short and stare.

For the dead are always close by in a life like Mahony’s. The dead are drawn to the confused and the unwritten, the damaged and the fractured, to those with big cracks and gaps in their tales, which the dead just yearn to fill. For the dead have secondhand stories to share with you, if you’d only let them get a foot in the door.

But the dead can watch. And they can wait.

For Mahony doesn’t see them now.

He stopped seeing them a long time ago.

Now the dead are confined to a brief scud across the room at lights-out, or a wobble now and then in his peripheral vision. Now Mahony can ignore them in much the same way as you’d ignore the ticks of an over-loud grandfather clock.

So Mahony pays no notice at all to the dead old woman pushing her face through the wall next to Tadhg’s right elbow. And Tadhg pays no notice either, for, like the rest of us, he is blessed with a blissful lack of vision.

The dead old woman opens a pair of briny eyes as round as vinegar eggs and looks at Mahony, and Mahony looks away, smiling full into Tadhg’s big face. So are there any digs about the town, pal?

There’s no work here. Tadhg crosses his arms high on his chest and sniffs woefully.

Mahony produces a half pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket and Tadhg takes one. They stand smoking awhile, Tadhg with his eyes narrowed against the sun, Mahony with a shadow of a smile on his face. The dead old woman slips out a good few inches above the pavement and points enigmatically down towards the cellar, muttering darkly.

Mahony increases his smile to show his teeth in an expression of considerable natural charm altogether capable of beguiling the hardest bastard of humankind. Well, the last thing I need is work. I’m taking a break from the city.

It’s the city, is it?

The dead old woman draws close enough to whisper in Mahony’s ear.

Mahony takes a drag and then exhales. It is. With the noise and the cars and the rats.

Rats, are there? Tadhg narrows his eyes.

As big as sheep.

Tadhg is outwardly unmoved, although he sympathizes deep in his soul. Rats are a very great problem in the world, he says sagely.

They are in Dublin.

So what brought you here?

I wanted a bit of peace and quiet. Do you know on the map there’s nothing at all around you?

It’s the arse end of beyond you’re after then?

Mahony looks thoughtful. Do you know? I think it is.

Well, you’ve found it. You’re on the run in the Wild West?

Seems so.

A lady or the law?

Mahony takes his cigarette out of his mouth and flicks it in the direction of the dead old woman, who throws a profoundly disgusted look at him. She lifts her filmy skirts and flits back through the wall of the pub.

She was no lady.

Tadhg’s face twitches as he curbs a smile. What are we calling you?


Tadhg notes a good firm handshake. Mahony it is then.

So will I find a bed tonight or will I have to curl up with those antiques on the bench there?

Tadhg withholds a fart, just while he’s thinking. Shauna Burke rents out rooms to paying guests at Rathmore House up in the forest. That’s about it.

That’d be grand.

Tadhg takes a thorough glance at Mahony. He’ll admit that he has a sort of bearing about him. He’s not a bad height and he’s strong looking, handy even. He’s been into his twenties and he’ll come out again the other side none the worse for it; he has the kind of face that will stay young. But he could do with a wash; he has the stubble of days on his chin. And his trousers are ridiculous: tight around the crotch and wide enough at the bottom to mop the main road.

Tadhg nods at them. They’re all the rage now? Them trousers?

They are, yeah.

Do you not feel like a bit of an eejit wearing them?

Mahony smiles. They all wear ’em in town. There’s wider.

Tadhg raises his eyebrows a fraction. Is there now? Well, you wouldn’t want to be caught in a gust of wind.

Tadhg can see that the girls would be falling over themselves if this fella ever had the notion to shave himself or pick up a bar of soap. And Mahony knows it too. It’s there in the curve of his smile and the light in his dark eyes. It’s in the way he moves, like he owns every inch of himself.

Tadhg stakes a smile. You’ll need to watch the other guest who lives up there, Mrs. Cauley. The woman’s titanic.

After what I’ve been afflicted with I’m sure I can handle her. And Mahony turns his laughing eyes up to Tadhg.

Now Tadhg is not a man given to remarkable insights but he is suddenly certain of two things.

One: that he’s seen those eyes before.

Two: that he is almost certainly having a stroke.

For the blood inside Tadhg has begun to belt around his body for the first time in a very long time and he knows that it can’t be good to stir up a system that has been sumping and rusting to a comfortable dodder. Tadhg puts his hands over his face and leans heavily against the saloon door. He can almost feel a big fecker of a blood clot hurtling towards his brain to knock him clean out of the living world.

Are you all right, pal?

Tadhg opens his eyes. The fella who is having a break from Dublin is frowning up at him. Tadhg reels off a silent prayer against the darkest of Mulderrig’s dark dreams. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket and wipes his forehead. And as the hairs settle on the back of his neck he tells himself that this fella is really no more than a stranger.

Whatever he thought he saw in his face has gone.

In front of him is a Dublin hippy passing through the arse end of beyond.

Are you all right?

Tadhg nods. I am, of course.

The stranger smiles. You open? I could do time for a pint.

Come inside now, Tadhg says, and resolutely decides to lay off the sunshine.

Luckily the sun has a desperate struggle to get in through the windows of Kerrigan’s Bar, but if it can seep through the smoky curtains it can alight on the sticky dark wood tables. Or it can work up a dull shine on the horse brasses by the side of the fire, unlit and full of crisp packets. Or it can bathe the pint of stout in Sergeant Jack Brophy’s hand to an even richer, warmer hue.

Jack, this is Mahony.

Mahony puts his rucksack by the door.

Jack turns to look at him. He nods. Get the man a pint, Tadhg. Here, Mahony, sit by me.

Mahony sits down next to Jack, a strong square wall of a man, and, like all mortals, he begins to feel soothed. Mahony isn’t to know that Jack has this effect on the mad, the bad, the imaginative, and skittish horses, whether off duty or on. Ask anyone and they will tell you it’s what makes Jack a good cop—a great guard. For here he is working his stretch of the coast, sorting out the wicked, the misjudged, and the maligned without having to once raise his voice.

Tadhg puts a pint in front of Mahony.

Now, tell me about it, says Jack, barely moving his lips.

Mahony could tell him about it. Mahony could start by telling Jack what happened last Thursday.

Last Thursday, Father Gerard McNamara walked into the Bridge Tavern with a black leather folio in his hand and an envelope inside the folio. He was seeking one of St. Anthony’s most notorious alumni and had started by visiting the bars within a one-mile radius of the orphanage. For Father McNamara was heeding the advice of the local guards along with the principle that a rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; it usually lands and festers right next to it.

Mahony was emanating from the jacks with a cigarette in his mouth as Father McNamara came round the side of the bar.

I’ll have a word with you, Mahony.

Mahony took out his cigarette and squinted at the priest. Sit yourself down, have a drink with me, Father.

The priest threw Mahony a caustic look, put the folio on the bar, and unzipped it.

Mahony pulled himself back up onto his stool and took hold of his pint with serious dedication. Ah, excuse me, I didn’t shake your hand, did I, Father? You see I’ve just touched something far from godly but just as capable of inflicting bliss.

Jim behind the bar grinned.

Father McNamara extracted the envelope from his folio. Sister Veronica passed away. She asked for this to be given to you.

Mahony looked at the letter on the bar.

Have you got the right man, Father? Sister Veronica wasn’t exactly head of me fan club now, was she? Why would she be leaving me anything? God rest her pure and caring soul.

Father McNamara shrugged. He didn’t give a shite; he just wanted to get out of the pub.

Mahony watched Father McNamara zip up his leather folio, put it under his arm, and walk back out through the saloon door into the weak Dublin sunshine. Mahony finished his pint, ordered another, and looked at the envelope. Then he found himself remembering.

He was no more than six.

Sister Veronica said that there wasn’t a letter left with him. Wasn’t he a little bastard that no one wanted and why would anyone be writing letters for him?

Sister Veronica said that his mammy was too busy working the docks to write.

Sister Veronica said that his mammy had only brought him to the nuns instead of drowning him because she couldn’t find a bucket.

But Sister Mary Margaret had told Mahony a different story, while she had taught him to hold a pencil and form his letters, and recognize all the major saints and many of the minor ones.

Once upon a time Sister Mary Margaret had answered a loud knocking at the door of the orphanage. It was very early one morning, before the city was awake. All the pigeons had their heads tucked under their wings and all the rats were curled up tight behind the dustbins. All the cars and lorries were asleep in their garages and depots, and all the trains slumbered on their tracks at Connolly Station. All the boats bobbed gently in the harbor, dreaming of the high seas, and all the bicycles slept leaning along the fences. Even the angels were asleep at the foot of the O’Connell Monument, fluttering their wings as they dreamt, quite forgetting to hold still and pretend to be statues.

The whole wide city was asleep when Sister Mary Margaret opened the door of the orphanage.

And there, on the steps, was a baby.

Of all the things in the world!

A baby in a basket, with a quilt of leaves and a pillow of rose petals.

A baby in a basket, just like Moses!

The baby had looked up at Sister Mary Margaret with two bright eyes and smiled at her. And she had smiled right back.

Mahony clung on to the bar. He couldn’t light a cigarette or pick up his pint, he couldn’t move, the sweat was pouring off him. He closed his eyes and right there in his memory he found Sister Mary Margaret, as she was the last time he saw her.

He was not even seven. At first he had held back from climbing up, for fear that he would break her. But Sister Mary Margaret had smiled down at him, so he scaled the arctic landscape of the bed. Without that smile he wouldn’t have known her.

Sister Mary Margaret had a cancer the size of a man’s head in her stomach and was as good as dead under the ground. That’s what they had told him but he’d come to see for himself.

He sat next to Sister Mary Margaret and let her wipe his nose with her handkerchief although he was too old for it. It took her hours because she kept falling asleep. He had wished to God that he wasn’t trailing great lanes of snot. But Mahony always had a cold from the fact that the tops of his fingers were often blue and his socks were never quite dry.

She had looked at him with her shrunken face on one side and he’d looked back at the ridge of her eye bone.

A letter was left with you, she whispered. Sister Veronica took it.

But then Sister Dymphna appeared and gave him a fierce slap and marched him out of the sanatorium.

Mahony wiped his eyes and glanced around the bar; the drinkers were sculling through their own thoughts and the barman had gone to change a barrel. He was safe.

He looked at the envelope in his hand.

For when the child is grown.

A good solid schoolteacherly hand, slanted in all the right places.

On the back of the envelope was a seal of sorts. A tiny medal of wax stamped with the shape of some old coin or other. He liked that: Sister Veronica had kept it back from him but she hadn’t opened it.

Mahony broke the seal.

Mahony will tell you to his dying day that the arse fell out of the barstool just after he opened that envelope. Then the barstool fell through the floor and the whole world turned itself about.

But then, when Mahony looked around himself, everything was exactly the same. The same smeared mirrors over the same dirty seats. The same sad bastards falling into their glasses and the same smell crawling out of the gents.

Inside the envelope was a photograph of a girl with a half smile holding a blurred bundle, high and awkwardly, like found treasure. Mahony turned it over and the good solid schoolteacherly hand dealt him a left hook.

Your name is Francis Sweeney. Your mammy was Orla Sweeney. You are from Mulderrig, Co. Mayo. This is a picture of yourself and her. For your information she was the curse of the town, so they took her from you. They all lie, so watch yourself, and know that your mammy loved you.

His mammy had loved him. Past tense. Mammy was past tense.

They took her from him. Where did they take her?

Mahony turned over the photograph and studied her face. God, she looked young. He would have put her as his sister rather. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen.

And his name was Francis. He’d keep that to himself.

Mahony lit a smoke and turned to the drinker next to him. Paddy, have you been to Mayo?

I haven’t, Paddy said, without lifting his chin from his chest.

Mahony frowned. Jim, what’s in Mayo?

Jim put down the tea towel. I’m fucked if I know. Why?

I’m going to take a trip there, see how the land lies.

Grand so.

Mahony stood unsteadily and picked up his lighter. I’m going. I am, Jim. Fuck it. What have I got to keep me here? He included the bar with a wave of his cig. Nothin’—name one thing.

Parole, said Paddy to his navel.

Mahony takes a taste of his pint and watches as Jack Brophy rolls a cigarette, deftly, with one hand. A hand as strong as a tree root, brown and calloused with big square cracked nails and deep gouged old scars. Mahony watches Jack and feels his brain slow a little. He breathes in tobacco, good soil, driving rain, calm sun, and fresh air off the broad back of the quiet man.

Still. He’ll tell Jack nothing of what happened last Thursday.

Mahony smiles. The truth is I’ve come here to get away from it all.

A collie noses out from behind the bar.

When it turns its head Mahony sees that it only has one good eye, the other rests messily on the dog’s cheek. Its ribs are caved in, leaving a dark sticky ditch. A dog that broken would have to be dead, and of course it is, fuck it.

Mahony sucks air in through his teeth and looks away.

The dead dog turns to lick Jack’s hand, which trails down holding his cigarette, but its muzzle goes straight through and the dog, finding no response, folds itself up at the foot of his master’s bar stool and rests the good side of its face on its faint paws.

Mahony studies his pint. All I really want, he says, is a bit of peace and quiet.

Sometimes a man is in no way honest.

Aye, says Jack. The word is little more than an exhalation of air. So that’s it?

Mahony feels no malice. He could tell them, ask them; he could start right here.

The two men look at him.

Mahony picks up his pint. That’s my story. I have no other.


April 1976

By the third pint it’s decided. Tadhg will bring Mahony up to Rathmore House to see Shauna Burke about the room, for he has a box of strawberries for the Widow Farelly that will go over if left until tomorrow. He hopes to be rewarded with a little kiss on the cheek or a squeeze of the hand. But he’s by no means certain of that; so far the Widow Farelly has kept her gentler feelings well hidden. But then Tadhg knew that a decent woman would be slower to court: the higher the mind the trickier the knickers.

They walk out the back of the bar and jostle through a corridor lined with boxes of crisps, Mahony because of his rucksack and Tadhg because of his girth. At the back door Tadhg hands Mahony a half bottle of whiskey to break the ice with Mrs. Cauley. For the dark-eyed fella is growing on him, despite the fact that he’s almost certainly a gobshite.

Tadhg’s car, a vehicle with its own notions of when to stop and start, is rusting out the back. Nothing grows here but empty bottles and broken crates. Tadhg tries the ignition, his top lip sweating with the effort of wedging himself in the driver’s seat. The engine turns over consumptively then dies.

Ah no.

Mahony gets out of the car and aims his cigarette into the corner of the courtyard. He reaches into the backseat and pulls out his rucksack.

Open the bonnet a minute, Tadhg.

Tadhg puts his hand down to feel for the lever but can’t reach it because his gut’s in the way. He gets out of the car and leaning on the open door tries to squat, minding he doesn’t shit himself or rip the arse out of his good cream trousers. By the time he’s found the lever Mahony has the bonnet propped open and is walking round the car wiping his hands on an old bit of rag.

Try it again now, Tadhg.

Tadhg lowers himself back into the seat and starts the engine. Perfect. He gives it a rev to make sure.

She didn’t even sound like that when I bought her new. Wha’ are you, some sort of magician?

Mahony laughs and throws his rucksack in the car; there’s a metallic clunk as it hits the backseat. He

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Что люди думают о Himself

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  • (5/5)
    what a crazy and fun ride with great characters
  • (4/5)
    Author, Jess Kidd uses an interesting approach to the supernatural element that she attempts, and mostly succeeds in accomplishing, in this book. The book is actually laughable...and I mean that in a good way...in places. Her characters are so entirely "Irish"... and I also man that in a good way. Her opening passages are so catching and are what sets the mood for the entire book and holds the readers attention. You just have to find out if this tiny babe who witnessed the death of his mother and nearly became a victim "himself" would succeed in finding the "why" of the matter and solve all the questions he has had his entire life about his existence and his "talents". Now I need to find her second book.
  • (2/5)
    I read this as part of my "eavesdropping book club," the book club that meets close enough to my work area that I can accidentally overhear spoilers for books I might one day read. I doubt, though, that I would have ever read this particular book on my own.This book felt overstuffed. There is an entire village peopled with sooo many with quirky folks. There is a supernatural element that expands the population of the village with even quirkier ghosts. There is a murder mystery with a little old lady who is a self-proclaimed detective. There's a roguish protagonist whose handsome appearance alone threatens to upset the status quo and sets off more than one romantic storyline. There's ample exploration of the Irish culture and setting.And the author lingers forever over each of these elements. On and on and on.Until such point as it is time to wrap some stuff up and then suddenly everything is abrupt and sudden and barely explained at all. The ending alone cost this book a full star in my rating.
  • (5/5)
    "The pipes sing about a land lost, about forgotten honor and wasted bravery. They sing of sedge-edged water and white skies, of the mountains and the sea, of those who are gone and those who never even were." This book was a complete delight. It's a literary mystery, small town social satire and dark comedy with beautiful language (read with a variety of captivating voices by Aiden Kelly, the narrator of the audiobook).The prologue is set in Mulderrig, Ireland in 1950 and describes the murder of 16 year old Orla Sweeney while her infant son cries nearby. The baby winds up in a Dublin orphanage. In 1976, 26 year old Mahony returns to Mulderrig with a photo of his mother to find out what happened to her. Mahony is handsome, charming and very attractive to women. Nevertheless, the citizens of Mulderrig are not happy to see his return. Orla had been wild and a troublemaker and everyone had been relieved when she and her baby disappeared. His arrival leads to an outburst of superstition, threats, bribery and murder.Mahony rents a room in the same house as the retired actress Mrs. Merle Cauley. Mahony and Cauley conclude that his mother must have been murdered and begin to investigate, starting with the interviewing everyone who shows up for auditions for the annual amateur play. The two have a similar way of cutting through bullshit and pretension and make an entertaining team. Also, this book has lots and lots of ghosts. They are everywhere and Mahony and Ora share the ability to see them. However ghosts are dangerous because they don't lie and they reveal truths about the past that most people would rather keep hidden. Unfortunately, Mahony can't just ask his mother for the name of her murderer. "The dead are like cats, Mahony. You of all people should know that. They don't always come when they're called." I loved this book and would be happy to read anything else the author writes. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
  • (4/5)
    It took me a while to get fully into this book, then I began "seeing" the main characters beyond just the words. I did get confused with some of the people in the story and found I had to rethink a couple of times when I discovered my error. It was both different and enjoyable.
  • (4/5)
    For a debut novel, this one hits it, if not out of the park, at least to the wall. The opening chapter is a combination of all of my favorite genres: mystery, action, magical realism, and fantasy. You see, there is a young mother with her child running from a murderous cad. She doesn't make it, but the forest hides the child so the cad won't find him. That's right! The forest hides him!Fast forward thirty years, and he is back. With the help of some very interesting and colorful characters, as well as more than a few undesireables trying to thwart his efforts, he returns to Mulderrig to unearth the truth. Oh, and did I mention that he sees dead people? Highly recommended.Thanks to NetGalley for this copy in exchange for my honest review. Published in October 2016, the book is available through Canongate Books.
  • (5/5)
    Mahoney was dropped off at a Dublin orphanage when he was just a baby. Now, 26 years later, he has come into possession of a note that tells him of his mother's name and where she was from. Mahoney decides to return to the small, west coast Irish town of Mulderrig to see if he can figure out the truth of his mother. However, Orla Sweeney was a blight on the town of Mulderrig and most of the folks are glad to have her gone, by whatever means. Orla and her son share the gift of ghosts-and the ghosts tell secrets about the townsfolk. When Mahoney returns and reveals his parentage, many of the townsfolk are put out and don't want the memories of Orla to return. With the help of an aging thespian, Mrs. Cauley, Mahoney will use his gifts and the town's fear to find out what happened to his mother. Himself is an amazing story of mystery, secrets, acceptance and a bit of magic. I was immediately pulled in from the beginning when we see Orla's murder and Mahoney's return to the strange town. I was especially interested in all of the ghosts that Mahoney is able to see and loved his interactions with them, especially Ida. Mahoney's journey took me to a beautiful and haunting Irish town in 1976. From an enchanted forest to a low-tide island and magnificent old buildings, reveal Mulderrig's appeal. Even more than the setting, the cast of characters is expertly drawn. Both the living and the dead receive full attention in the hunt for revealing Orla's fate. For me, Mrs. Cauley stole the show with her straightforward attitude and unrelenting will. I am in love with her comebacks and her promptly placed farts in church. The mystery of who exactly killed Orla kept me reading. I really wanted Mahoney to connect with his mother's ghost. I do wish there was more of a resolve there, but the ending was still satisfying. The mix of history, mystery, and grand characters sprinkled with a bit of supernatural created a wonderful world that I absolutely could not put down. This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    4.5 Magical and delightful, was not at all ready to leave this small Irish town nor these wonderful characters. Mahoney, raised in an orphanage, come to Murdering to uncover the truth about the young mother he never knew. He creates quite a stir with his Byronic good looks, sets hearts a quivering, but not all because many in this place are holding secrets and one is a murderer. He meets some amazing characters, willing to help him with his quest: the old Mrs., Cauley, who was quite a stage sensation in her youth and still has vestiges of her bold character, Bridget Doosey, who has talents that are unseen, and the intrepid Shauna, a young women who falls hard to Mahoney.Magical realism, humor, the paranormal all combine in this enchanting story. Mahoney has an unforeseen talent, like his mother before him, he can see and talk to ghosts, and his return stirs all the town's residents, living and dead. So much humor, I laughed continuously, smiled often. Mrs. Cauley owes a debt of gratitude to Jane Austen's Collected Works, War and Peace and a few other large tomes, after all books do save lives. There is one part of only a few paragraphs that is quite unsavory, concerning a dog and some violence because as I said there is a murderer about and he is bent at not having his secret uncovered.More plot oriented than Lincoln in the Bardo, but if you enjoyed that one you will probably love this one.
  • (5/5)
    Literally could not put this book down. Like I couldn't even sleep : it was that good. Great story, mesmerizing, and a fabulous ending.
  • (4/5)
    The plot and mystery of this novel were a bit predictable, but I loved the characters, the small town, the light supernatural elements, and the references and alignment with J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World.
  • (4/5)
    Thank goodness for friends who bug you to read something you'd normally never pick up. I finally got around to this & what a wonderful, magical story it is. It begins with the premise of an orphan searching for the mother he never knew & ends up delivering a tale full of humour & mystery.Mahoney is a charming young man who was left at an orphanage as a baby. All he has is a faded photo of his mother. Naturally he has questions & returns to her home town of Mulderrig to find out what happened. There he hooks up with Mrs. Cauley, an elderly actress who revels in shaking up the residents of this sleepy little town.At it's heart, it's a possible murder mystery. But there's so much more to enjoy here. Mulderrig is not your typical village. It's a place where you might see frogs perform synchronized dance moves, trees eavesdrop on conversations & books can attack when threatened (do NOT piss off an anthology of Russian literature). The prose is gorgeous & you'll find yourself grinning as you turn the pages. The cast ranges from sinister to downright wacky & the dialogue is frequently hilarious. And although many of the characters are already dead, that doesn't stop them from weighing in with their opinions. There's a strong theme of Irish folklore & mysticism that underlies the story & you start to believe anything can happen. It's a book that is difficult to stick in one category & reminded me of The MIlagro Beanfield War & The Shadow of the Wind. Magical other worldly forces interact with the living & the result is a story that is touching & funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it & will now become one of those annoying people who pushes this on other readers.
  • (4/5)
    "For the dead are always close by in a life like Mahoney’s. The dead are drawn to the confused and the unwritten, the damaged and the fractured, to those with big cracks and gaps in their tales, which the dead just yearn to fill. For the dead have secondhand stories to share with you, if you’d only let them get a foot in the door. "

    Mahoney, a handsome Dublin drifter, goes back to his hometown of Mulderrig to discover the long-buried secret of his origins. The townspeople believe his mother left him in an orphanage and then was never heard from again. Did she disappear and start a new life, or was she, as Mahoney suspects, murdered? All he has to go on is a photograph of him and his mother with a few short sentences written on the back.

    Himself is an Irish Spoon River Anthology with ethereal descriptions and supernatural interventions. It’s charmingly rural, replete with folklore and eccentric characters, but also eerie with disquiet. My favorite character was Mrs. Cauley, described as a looking like a benign, geriatric spider, boarding in a house among toppling towers of books and old sheet music. She’s tart, but benevolent, and she can drink Mahoney under the table. She takes up Mahoney’s cause to solve the questions of his mother’s disappearance, and her money and chutzpah are just the motivation Mahoney needs. She knows that the ghost of her first love is lurking around. He often loiters in her hydrangeas while she sits in her garden plotting with Mahoney.

    I was drawn to this book because of the Irish setting and the endorsement of M. L. Stedman (A Light Between Oceans). Several elements keep this book from being the usual hum-drum mystery: the gothic Irish setting, where the town itself is a living, breathing thing; the peculiar, enigmatic, and often hilarious townspeople that you get to know as well as your own kooky great aunt; and the fact that the dead of Mulderrig are also skulking around, visible only to Mahoney, indulging in their vices and prey to their temptations, even in their spectral forms. The writing in Himself is exceptional. It's rare to encounter such rich, apt characterization or creation of such foreboding atmosphere. There’s a ghost of a little girl whose tinny voice taunts Mahoney, the incessant drum of the bees who murmur about impending storms, and the trees who “hold their own counsel” and dig their taproots deep. They all portend murder as the answer to the mystery of Mahoney’s mother, with more murder to come.

    4 stars for the story, 500 stars for the writing. As soon as I picked this one up, I dropped everything else I was reading. It will grab you from the first sentence and won’t let go.

    Himself will be published on March 21, 2017. Many thanks to Netgalley, Atria Books, and Jess Kidd for this advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
    This review is also posted on my blog, flyleafunfurled.com
  • (3/5)
    “So what brought you here?”I wanted a bit of peace and quiet.Do you know on the map there’s nothing at all around you?“It’s the arse end of beyond you’re after then?”Mahony looks thoughtful.Do you know? I think it is.“Well, you found it.”Hang on to the book tightly. Orla Sweeney’s murder in the prologue will tear your heart out. In May of 1950, an Irish teenage mother from the tiny village of Mulderrig, anxiously waits in the woods for the father of her newborn son to arrive. She hopes to obtain emotional and financial support but when he arrives, she receives a death sentence.“His first blow: the girl made no noise, her dark eyes widened. She reeled a little as she bent and put the baby down. The man stood waiting…when she was still…he wrapped her in sackcloth…He laid her in a well-made grave…He remembered that he must also claim their child or his work would not be done. [While he had dispatched the mother] the forest had hidden the infant. Great ferns had unfurled all around the child, tree roots had surrounded him, and ivy had sprung up to cloak him..[s]o that…he could not find the child, however hard he searched.”The child was discovered in the woods and someone from the village mysteriously drove to Dublin, placing him at the front door of the St. Anthony Orphanage cocooned in a basket like baby Moses. His life at St. Anthony’s was smeared by the stigma of his illegitimate birth. Sister Veronica, the bane of his existence, made sure he realized that he was a stain on humanity. He was given the name of Mahony.There was one ray of sunshine in his life – Sister Mary Margaret. This kindly nun confided to him the true nature of his arrival including the fact that there was a letter with him in the basket; a fact that Sister Veronica rebuked. Sadly, Sister Mary Margaret died when he was 7. When she appeared before him holding her deadly cancerous tumor in her hands, he would forever have one foot in the world of the living and the dead. This ability to see the dead as they go about their non-corporeal lives plays an important part in Mahony’s life.Mahony, now 26 years old, is seated at a Dublin pub knocking back a pint when he is approached by a local priest. Sister Veronica has died and a letter in her possession is addressed to Mahoney. “For when the child is grown.” Inside the envelope was a picture of a girl with a half-smile holding a blurred bundle, high and awkwardly, like found treasure…"Your name is Francis Sweeney. Your mammy was Orla Sweeney. You are from Mulderrig, Co. Mayo. This is a picture of yourself with her. For your information she was the curse of the town, so they took her from you. They all lie, so watch yourself, and know that your mammy loved you."Pocketing the letter, Mahony heads to Mulderrig to learn what happened to his mother. What made her the curse of the town? Where did they take her? Who brought him to the Dublin orphanage? Who is this ally that warns him about the town?When the local bus pulls up to a stop in the sleepy-eyed stillness of Mulderrig, its lone passenger, a rakishly handsome Mahony, steps down from the past to turn Mulderrig upside down. His search will shake out long buried secrets, bring threats on his life and endanger those helping him to uncover the truth. Mahony’s complicated search is alternated with a third-person narrator giving the reader Orla Sweeney’s short life story. We learn things that Mahony/Francis will never know.Prominent characters include – the town constable, Sergeant Jack Brophy, a “strong square wall of a man…[who has a soothing affect] on the mad, the bad and the imaginative…whether off duty or on” – Tadhg Kerrigan, owner of Kerrigan’s pub, the first to greet Mahony and the first to suspect that his visit has something to do with Orla Sweeney – Mrs. Cauley, “an aging actress and brash anarchist” who arrived at the local inn, the Rathmore House, over 20 years ago and never left. She spends her final days harassing the local denizens, and Father Quinn, the local corrupt priest, in particular. She bonds with Mahony and they begin a systematic investigation to determine who was his father! And who was responsible for Orla’s fate.My favorite character is Mrs. Cauley. She holds her head high despite rapidly declining health and failing looks. There’s a fiery spirit inside the broken body that refuses to give up. She seems to have some paranormal powers. Although she can’t see the spirits, she can sense their presence. She lives to twist the knickers on all the hypocritical and devious residents responsible for making Orla’s life so miserable and turned their backs on her in her time of need.And as we have seen earlier, the spirits long dead float around Mahony, day and night, like long strands of gossamer. Some engage him directly and others just take up space in the story. There’s Miss Mulhearne, “a picture of respectable Irish womanhood” haunting her old school room and is surprised when she realizes that Mahony can see her. When he learns that she misses what she remembers as poetry, he finds time to join her in the closet and read some to her. Father Jim, the town’s priest and a sympathetic friend of Orla Sweeney, died mysteriously, and now haunts Mrs. Cauley’s commode. And perhaps the most important spirit, the little girl named Ida who witnessed Orla’s burial and was killed as she fled. Her appearances to Mahony provide clues to his mother’s demise.Lest I have given the impression that the story is leprechauns and scatter brained ghosts, the author has created a malevolent atmosphere throughout the book and there are several scenes of violence and brutality. Woman’s rights advocates will gnash their teeth. Life was pretty rough for women in the 1970s. I know. I was there. But women in this little village suffered a religion and moral backlash that was horrible.Jess Kidd, as a debut author, has undoubtedly a highly developed creative mind. The story is stuffed with unique characters both living and dead. I can’t shake the image of Mrs. Cauley’s ghostly suitor “drop[ping] his underwear and hopscotch[ing] down the garden path, his bare arse winking in the early morning light.”Without question Kidd knows County Mayo intimately and her writing style lifts the Irish brogue off the page. When Mahony first walks into Kerrigan’s pub, Tadhg greets him with “All right so?” And Mahony answers, “I’m grand.” She’s a “right eejit altogether.” A word of warning to the delicate, words that are most certainly profane in our culture are natural part of local discourse. Their favorite adjective is f***. Here’s a tamer use of that word with a twist. When Mahony asks the ghostly seven year-old Ida her name, she responds with “how the feck should I know?”There’s something wobbly about the way the story is crafted. The story feels forced or directed by the author, not dictated by the characters. At times, strangely placed vignettes intrude into an important story line. In one instance, Mahony learns important facts about his mother and while fleshing out the details, the author has Johnnie, Mrs. Cauley’s ghostly womanizer, sitting naked next to him. That was strange enough but the author then has Johnnie stands and “saunters to the nearby flower bed scratching his flute“. The juxtaposition of Johnnies’ itchy flute and Orla’s murdered body was downright weird.All said, I enjoyed the book. It was grand! Hopefully future works will reduce the number of side stories and useless characters concentrating on deeper coverage of the prime themes. Looking forward to the next book.
  • (5/5)
    I received a free advance review e-copy of this book and have chosen of my own free will to post a review. A young man was left on the doorstep of an orphanage as an infant and decides to return to his roots to see what he can find out about his mother, Orla Sweeney. He is a handsome, and charismatic young Irishman who sees dead people. This book is full of humor, magic, secrets, murder, and some very dark moments. Mulderegg is a small Irish village with eccentric and quirky residents. Jess Kidd is a true storyteller who has a way with words and Irish humor. This is a very well written book with an engaging plot as the young man seeks to uncover the truth about his mother’s disappearance and his abandonment. The author keeps the reader guessing throughout the book as to who’s the daddy, what really happened to Orla, and whodunit. This was a fun and enjoyable book with some very interesting and eccentric characters and well worth the read. I look forward to reading more from Jess Kidd in the future.
  • (5/5)
    This combination of murder mystery, James Joyce short story, Irish bar yarn, and folklore is very charming. But what stands out most for me are the occasional soaring flights of Irish-infused prose that have an extraordinary power of both conjuring a place and enchanting the reader.Mahony, 26, is a petty thief who grew up in a harsh Dublin orphanage, having been abandoned there as an infant. Upon the death of a nun there in charge of his case, one of the priests gives him a note in an envelope inscribed “For when the child is grown.” It reads:“Your name is Francis Sweeney. Your mammy was Orla Sweeney. You are from Mulderrig, Co. Mayo. . . . For your information, she was the curse of the town, so they took her from you. They all lie, so watch yourself, and know that your mammy loved you.”Mahony decides to skip parole and return to the village of his birth, Mulderrig (an imaginary village set in County Mayo), to find out about his mother and what really happened to her.The plot shifts between 1950, when Mahony was born, to 1976, when he returns to Mulderrig. Mulderrig, the author writes, is a place like no other:“Here the colors are a little bit brighter and the sky is a little bit wider. Here the trees are as old as the mountains and a clear river runs into the sea. People are born to live and stay and die here. They don’t want to go. Why would they when all the roads that lead to Mulderrig are downhill so that leaving is uphill all the way?”And about the town the author asks:“Didn’t St. Patrick himself admire Mulderrig’s trees whilst chasing troublesome snakes about the place? And didn’t he bless the forest as he lashed through the undergrowth?”After a storm in Mulderrig, the author writes:“In the field a flyblown sheep is lullabied by gentle breezes, her rinsed wool lifting. She’s an earthbound cloud! . . . The crows picking over the flooded fields are dancing the fandango and the farmers that applaud them are their biggest fans.”Mulderrig is magical for another reason. It’s inhabitants include both the living and the dead, and Mahony sees them all. The dead characters are almost as real as those who are living, and just as delightful. They are always close to someone like Mahony, the author writes:“The dead are drawn to the confused and the unwritten, the damaged and the fractured, to those with big cracks and gaps in their tales, which the dead just yearn to fill. For the dead have second-hand stories to share with you, if you’d only let them get a foot in the door.”The village harbors some evil individuals bent on revenge but also some brave and loving people who are dedicated to justice. The good people in the village are drawn to Mahony just as the dead are, and they all endeavor to help him. When Mahony comes to Mulderrig, the dead know they will finally be recognized: “They only want to be seen.”Mahony’s primary partner in his quest to find out what happened to his mother is the woman who lives in the boarding house where he takes up residence. Mrs. Cauley is a former actress - “once one of the greatest actresses to grace the stage of the Abbey Theatre” - who still has a flair for drama and performance, and who immediately takes a shine to Mahony. The feeling is mutual; Mahony comes to adore both her and her deceased former lover, Johnnie, who watches over Mrs. Cauley.Mr. Cauley explains to Mahony, “Orla Sweeney was the wild bad girl of the village. By the time she was sixteen she was knocked up, unwed, and Mulderrig’s dirty little secret.” No one knew who the father was. Many villagers hated her because she refused to live by the rules, and she tempted the men away from their wives.The village girls all look at the handsome, dark-eyed newcomer in much the way their fathers must have looked at Orla. Even the older women find themselves smiling at him. His charm beguiles them, but not all of them; not the ones who remember his mother and wanted her gone.Mrs. Cauley decides the best way to ferret out the truth is to question villagers during auditions for her annual play to raise money for the church. This year the play is to be “The Playboy of the Western World” by John Millington Synge. ["The Playboy of the Western World" is set in a pub in County Mayo during the early 1900s. The comedy tells the story of a lonely dreamer named Christy Mahon who wanders into a pub, claiming that he has killed his father.] She tells the villagers that “Mahony here has agreed to grace our stage as our very own Dublin playboy.” The excitement of someone new and the opportunity to be in a play with him brings out the crowds. And when he comes out on stage, they shout: “Here he is now. Here’s himself.”Sure enough, the truth starts coming out in small bits, as the list of suspects for Orla's murder shortens. Mrs. Cauley’s “investigation team” is joined by Shauna, who takes care of the boarding house and who is falling for Mahony, and Bridget Doosey, the remarkable woman who works for Father Quinn, the smarmy corrupt priest of the village. As they try to come up with the possible guilty party, Bridget asks: “Who would Orla really annoy?” Mrs. Cauley responds with her dead-on powers of observation: “The sanctimonious, the bigoted, and the pious.” A man who embodies all three traits, Father Quinn, tries to lead the villagers to shun Mahony. As Mrs. Cauley explains to Mahony: “Fear, guilt, and superstition, Mahony, it’s a fine way to steer the herd. It always has been.”She says further: “It is a truth universally unacknowledged that when the dead are trying to remember something, the living are trying harder to forget it."Meanwhile, Shauna doesn’t want to be thinking about Mahony all the time, but can’t help it: “She’s put him out like a cat a million times but like a cat he has a habit of slinking back and curling up in the warm corners of her mind.”As the exciting denouement approaches, you can’t be sure who will make it out of the final confrontation alive.Discussion: There are some great characters in this book. Mrs. Cauley - hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, funny, and wise - is unforgettable, as is the surprisingly brave, enterprising, and mischievous Bridget. Some of the dead, including Johnny, a little girl named Ida, and the priest who served before Father Quinn, are also great characters.Evaluation: I wouldn’t identify this primarily as a crime story, although it certainly is that. But it struck me more as Irish storytelling at its finest (of one of the characters, another says, “Ah, watch it. Half the lies [he] says aren’t true.”); an Irish folktale that conveys exuberant celebration of life, and the enduring power of love, by both the living and the dead.Note: Jim enjoyed this book a great deal also, which is saying a lot given the inclusion of dead characters.
  • (4/5)
    A beautiful and atmospheric debut from Jess Kidd, ‘Himself’ tells the story of Mahoney, an orphan who returns to Mulderigg, the village where he was born, in order to find out what happened to his young mother. Aided by a cantankerous, but wonderfully devilish old former actress, along with a few other misfits from the village (and a few of the local ghosts), Mahoney starts to wade through the lies that the bitter residents of Mulderigg have woven around the story of his mother’s disappearance. Strewn throughout with dark humour, magic realism, a few sad moments (but many touching ones too), and a cast of believable characters (and numerous wigs!) Jess Kidd has created a story that frankly, I didn’t want to end. I look forward to more writing from her!
  • (4/5)
    HIMSELF is one of the most unusual mysteries I’ve read; the experience was like getting pulled into a vivid 20th century Irish folk tale. Set in the small village of Mulderrig, this wild story alternates between the 1970s and 1940s/50s. Mahony grew up in a Dublin orphanage, with very few clues about his beginning. When he finally gets a lead, 26-year old Mahony travels back to Mulderrig determined to find out what became of this mother, stirring up all kind of chaos in the process. The book is full of quirky, funny, tragic characters, both living and dead. Mahony can communicate with the dead, sometimes they’re helpful, other times not so much. Loved that Mahony was referred to as “a [County] Mayo Heathcliff.” I enjoyed the blending of magical realism into the twisted mystery. The lyrical language and dark humor were also a delight. Impressive debut!Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    ''The dead are like cats, Mahony. You of all people should know that. They don't always come when they're called.'' I added Jess Kidd's book when I first saw its deliciously creepy front cover and the striking title. It had all the right ingredients: Ireland during the 70s, magical realism, dry humour, gothic hints. When the lovely Goodreads Ireland group members chose it for our quarterly read, it was a perfect opportunity for me to start reading. Plus, it came highly recommended by my good friend Maria ní Chnoic so what more could I ask? And I can tell you it has been a wonderful trip with an exciting book!''Here is a handsome stranger.'' Mahony arrives in Mulderrig in 1976, searching for answers about his parentage, about the disappearance of his mother, seeking justice from the members of the community. He is clever, extremely charismatic, attractive, aloof and a torchured soul himself. (...and can you tell I fell in love with him immediately?) However,he has some demons of his own to fight and, at the same time, a number of significant allies. It was the nature of these allies that made me think I was reading a unique kind of book.''For the dead are drawn to those with shattered souls.''Mahony is a shuttered soul, no matter how hard he tries to hide it, Orla was a shuttered soul, Shauna is troubled too. There is this large majority of the people in Mulderring whose lives have been plagued by secrets, sins, hatred and dogmatism. The dead demand justice for crimes committed by people with shady lives and motives. At the heart of this story lies an institution that is supposed to provide comfort and shelter to those in trouble: the Church.The ominous figure of the village priest is a recurring theme in British and Irish Fiction. The priest gives sermons about the dangers of superstitions and speaks against ''the wind of change coming from the cities.'' It is merely the favourite hobby of many members of the clergy who fear progress and the traditions of the ''pagan'' past alike. He considers Theatre a pagan notion of corruption and disruption and tries to build up his defenses when he understands that Orla has returned for retribution in the face of Mahony.The characters in Himself jump right from the page, both the ''good'' and the ''bad''. They are realistic depictions of a closely knit society who punishes those who wish to break free from suffocating beliefs and stereotypes. Mahony is easily one of the most fascinating characters I've ''met'' recently (I confess I am totally and absolutely biased and I regret nothing. The fact that Kidd's description of him reminds me slightly of my boyfriend doesn't help...) but for me, the real ''star'' of the story is Mrs. Cauley. My God, I loved her! She is a wonderful character, saucy and sassy and unashamed to put everyone in their place. I liked Shauna too. She is a calm, level-headed, tender soul. On the other hand, I hated Róisín, she disgusted me to no end...There is a great danger of revealing spoilers with this novel. It is a book that flows. Short chapters and interactions pass by like a flash and make the story move so quickly, you need to pay your fullest attention in order to absorb everything that is going on. The language is simple, but beautiful, it makes you search under the layers to look for motives and answers. There are elements of black humour that are able to make you laugh out loud in a story that blends Crime Fiction and Paranormal Mystery in a brilliant way. Kidd has created some memorable scenes throughout the narration. The introduction of Ida and a nightly storm that brought the Ten Biblical Plagues in mind are particularly powerful moments.I loved this book. I loved it as an example of Historical Fiction, of Mystery, of Crime, you name it. It is unique, beautiful and one more addition to all those fascinating books that we have the pleasure to read nowadays.''The night is clear from mountain to sea as Mahony climbs the dark ribbon of road. Ahead of him the starlit forest slumbers. Behind him the moonlight skims and breaks over the mild-skinned water of the bay, which is as still as milk tonight. For the wind is lying low, curled into the strong back of the deep-sleeping velvet mountain.'' If that isn't Ireland in a paragraph, I don't know what is....
  • (5/5)
    **This book was reviewed for Port Jericho via Netgalley**Kidd’s Himself tells the tale of Mahoney, an orphan come from Dublin to the provincial village of Mulderrig in search of his past and the truth of his mother's apparent abandonment of him. Mulderrig is a quiet town, harbouring hidden secrets, secrets ready to burst forth and reshape boundaries of mind, heart, and soul. In his quest for the truth, Mahoney acquires a friend and helpmate in the form of Mrs Cauley, an elderly actress who has retired in Mulderrig. Kidd presents an eccentric cast, and a complex storyline. There is a certain charming mysticism and elements of the supernatural woven throughout. Mahoney himself is gifted with seeing the dead, who respond to his presence by waking more fully. These ghosts, and other spirits of the land help if and when they may. This story has such beautiful language, it's enough to bring tears to your eyes at times. As so:'Birds spin through the glass air to land on washing lines and survey lawns sprinkled with breakfast crusts.’The lyrical writing reminded me of the a version of the legend of Cuchulainn I read recently. It is ironic to me that much later, towards the end of the story, mention is made of just this legend.There are inklings of Mahoney as a modern culture hero. He has come to Mulderrig to shake things up, bringing with him new ways of thinking and being. When he leaves, this sleepy little town will not be the same. Mahoney calls to mind Kvothe, from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingbreaker series. I cried at the end, once the full truth is known. I think I cried most for the collie, whose innocent trust and loyalty is so horribly betrayed. This is a book I am proud to have on my bookshelves, and will certainly read over and over again.????? If you like Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingbreaker series, or Tiffany McDaniels’ The Summer That Melted Everything, you will enjoy Kidd’s richly complex Himself.