“It hit him like a midwife’s slap” is a good line in the Irish idiom, but what would a teenage boy know about midwives? I appreciate the raw energy of Lisa McInery’s style and the sincerity of her portrayal of a group of dead-end Cork-based drug-takers and dealers, prostitutes and criminals, their excuse being poverty in post-financial crash Eire, and a flaky, hypocritical Catholic tradition.
Nevertheless, what is described on the back cover as a “punchy, edgy, sexy, fizzling, feast of a debut novel”, “a gripping and often riotously funny tale”, left me cold. I found the unrelenting sordid violence unrelieved by any of the famous Irish quirky humour or lyrical prose. At one point, when a man is shot, there is no real sense of shock or emotion. It may of course have been the author’s intention to portray death like that in an arcade game, but across the board, characters are not developed in any way that makes me engage with them. Although it did not promise a “happy ever after”, the ending seemed somewhat sentimental.
This is one of those novels which divides readers. Whether or not one likes a novel is always subjective. Some of the most challenging novels the most worth reading are an acquired taste. However, after decades of reading a wide variety of fiction, I may commend this as a debut novel (but why should one make allowances for a first book anyway?) but, as others have said, it is quite long with a shambling plot, and I did not feel it was worth spending the time needed to read it.