The Butcher Boy
Picador, $32.95 hb
When, the opening pages of The Butcher Boy, it becomes clear that the narrator is an uneducated toughie whose sorry history is going to be the subject of the book, the reader’s danger flags are likely to be unfurled. To sustain such a voice without losing credibility is a tricky task. But the first chapter establishes that voice with exceptional skill, and this success continues through almost to the final scene, which curls back to the beginning, with the narrator an old man, remembering slowly, frighteningly, his tragic life.
Francie Brady was born into a dead-end. His father drinks and resents. His mother puts on a brave crazy face, but is driven to the edge of madness by the bitter cruelty of her husband and the Ireland that she loves. Everything is cardboard in the life of the Bradys and, like all kids, Francie yearns for solid brick.