Night Boat to Tangier
Two ageing gangsters rhapsodize about life, death and everything in between while they wait at the port of Algeciras for a family member who may already be lost forever. They take us on a chemical-fuelled journey, punctuated with pain and love, from bleak West Cork to the blistering pavements of southern Spain.
On reading a synopsis of Tangier, and even during the first few chapters, one would be forgiven for thinking that they were in familiar Kevin Barry territory: poetic low-lives, femme fatales and the ever-present threat of violence pour from the pages. But this is both sleight of hand and the book’s greatest strength. It pulls you in and makes you feel at home amongst the criminal underworld, before breaking your heart with the greatest love story Barry has told yet.
Having adored Barry’s previous novel Beatlebone, I wasn’t sure if Tangier would be able to recapture that novel’s great madness. But it doesn’t have to. While there is no shortage of madness in the book, it is a madness that is rooted in essentially human connections. With Night Boat to Tangier, Barry takes his eye for violence and magic and focuses it on love, both platonic and romantic, and the result is breathtaking.
Words: Joe Joyce