Book Review: Homesickness – Colin Barrett

Posted 12 months ago in Book Review

Music Current 20 mar-15 apr – Desktop


Colin Barrett

Jonathan Cape

Along with those of writers like Kevin Barry and John Patrick McHugh, Colin Barrett’s stories brilliantly articulate the tragedy and comedy of rural Ireland. What’s more, they do so with compassion, rarely resorting to caricature.

Homesickness, which follows his award-winning first collection, Young Skins, is set largely in his home county of Mayo. The stories draw richly on the problematic intimacies and solidarities of small-town communities. In ‘A Shooting in Rathreedane’, a police woman offers comfort to a local petty criminal and incompetent intruder for whom she has a certain affection, as he bleeds having been shot by a dangerously trigger-happy farmer. In ‘The Ways’, an orphaned trio of siblings pull together despite their many miseries. ‘The Alps’ is a striking representation of a distinctly Irish sensibility that combines prurience with bawdiness.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Barrett’s work is its style. Like Kevin Barry, he boasts a real command of a particular Irish vernacular, which he marries with a more conventional eloquence. Adjectives like ‘stocious’ and ‘unreal’ are used in a way that’s instantly recognisable to anyone who’s spent time in ‘the country’. He’s inventive with his verbs, too: the landline ‘mewls’; turns in the road ‘ambush’ the driver; a hairline ‘capitulates’.

Homesickness cements Barrett’s reputation as one of Ireland’s most original voices.

Words: Luke Warde


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