Last week I had an email from NetGalley letting me know my request to read and review a copy of HIMSELF was approved! Whoop!
How exciting! I get to read a book that hasn’t been released yet and review it before the most other readers. Thank you NetGalley, thank you Canongate Books and thank you Jess Kidd.
Set in the 1970s in Ireland this book was unusual from the start, but I liked it.
When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only his handsome face, a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies. His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers. Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and blackly comic debut novel creates in crystal-clear, musical language an unforgettable world of strange kindnesses, bloody violence and buried secrets.
Description and image courtesy of NetGalley.com
Written in third person present tense I did find it hard to get in to at first. I am also quite new to magic realism as a genre, add all of this to report writing and being very busy at work. With this in mind I was determined to push through and read it to the end even though it was a struggle at times.
Mahony rocks into Mulderrig, a young, fiercely handsome man looking to find out what happened to his mother. He doesn’t reveal his true identity at first but his unexpected arrival in a small town where very little happens causes enough of a stir.
The story itself is well written with a wealth of history and backstory included to add depth to the characters. It is funny, I actually laughed out loud at some points, there is a dark humor running throughout that I enjoyed.
The ghosts that Mahony sees and communicates with was acceptable to me but I have to admit some of the magical elements were a bit odd. I understand that magic realism incorporates the unusual with the usual and opens our eyes to a different reality on our world but I still find it hard to connect with. Maybe because I love my fantasy and always have.
That said, I wanted Mahony to find the truth; I really wanted a certain love interest to work out; I adored Mrs Cauley and her wonderfully extravagant ways and I disliked characters too.
This is Jess Kidd’s debut novel and it is well written, some of the imagery is so vivid and beautiful and the relationships brutal and loving and tragic at times.
I recommend HIMSELF to you if you enjoy magic realism and black comedy and, even if you don’t, I say give it a go.
I give it 3 stars *** I would consider reading other works by Jess Kidd and look forward to see what she produces in the future.
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