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City of Bohane [Paperback]

Kevin Barry
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

5 April 2012

Winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award

Winner of the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award

The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are still some posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and the eerie bogs of Big Nothin' that the city really lives.

For years, Bohane has been in the cool grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there's trouble in the air. But now they say his old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and there's trouble in the air...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099549158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099549154
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"The most arresting and original writer to emerge from these islands in years" (Irvine Welsh)

"Hilarious and unpredictable - and always brilliant" (Roddy Doyle)

"Astonishing.This marks him out as a writer of great promise" (Guardian)

"Beautiful, arresting, precise...a compelling creation" (Irish Times)

"An electrifying masterpiece" (Joseph O'Connor)

Book Description

Winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, shortlisted for the 2011 Costa First Novel Award and winner of the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award - this is a cool, comic, violent and lyrical debut novel from one of Ireland's most talented new writers.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Bohane is a thoroughly lawless Irish town, set in what would appear to be some kind of parallel universe. We are told it is set in 2053, but it's a town without any technology or modern luxuries. It's a violent place fueled by alcohol, drugs and lust with a patois style language that takes a little work to get into. Novels with this kind of premise have to be beyond good if they are to interest the annual literary prize judges; this is one such book and "City of Bohane" is nominated for this year's Costa First Novel prize. It is stunningly good.

The book's brilliance lies not so much in the plot though. It's a relatively straightforward gang land power struggle. Neither does it solely lie with the great range of characters, although they are amusingly well drawn. From the gangland leader and part time mummy's boy Logan Hartnett, his domineering mother, Girly, to the young pretenders Jenni Ching, Wolfie Stanners and a certain Mr Burke, whose nickname rhymes with `mucker', through to the arch manipulator Ol' Boy Mannion.

Great though these characters are, and Kevin Barry frequently goes to great lengths to describe their bizarre fashion tastes, it is the way that Barry uses language to describe the scenes that is so brilliant. Hardly a page went by without it invoking a smile at the sheer brilliance of the descriptions. It's difficult to give examples, because of the unique style of the language which taken out of context is merely confusing, but in a bar "ceiling fans whirred, noirishly against the night, and were stoical, somehow, like the old uncles of the place, all raspy and emphysemic". He does this again and again.

The book's cultural influences are worn on its sleeve and are wide ranging.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
What a glorious, dark, weird, wonderful book. Gang warfare in a strange composite of Sligo/Galway/Limerick, in a time not so very far from now, featuring a lover's triangle and more heartstrickenness than "Romeo and Juliet"? Yes, but it works -- or rather doesn't work, just flows and ebbs like the dirty river that divides and centers the town. The old fight and strive to stay young; the young die sometimes before they should; an Ireland at once traditionally homogenous and rampantly multicultural is not only possible but fully here. All ends not with a bang but with a whimper, as I see it, and I finished ready to take a deep breath, pick it back up, and start all over again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violent yet strangely beautiful 25 Nov 2011
`The City of Bohane' had been sitting on my `must read pile' for a couple of months, finally forcing itself to the top by being shortlisted for the Costa first novel award. Why did I leave it so long? It is violent, funny, intelligent, imaginative and strangely beautiful. Bohane, on the west coast of Ireland was once a great city, we encounter it 40 years into the future when it is a `sin city', run by various gangs and full of murder, drugs and prostitution. Logan Hartnett of the Fancy gang has kept it under control for years but things are changing starting with the return of Gant, the previous leader of the gang. A feud is due with all the bloodshed it will entail, but then peace can only last for so long, betrayal and changes of allegiance are on the cards.

The basic plot may not be completely new but it is the way the story is told that kept me riveted to the page. The language is a form of patois, but it isn't hard to understand the meaning behind the words. The fight between the gangs isn't described as it happens but we learn about it from a set of `still' images through the eyes of Balthazar Grimes, the photographer for the `Vindicator' as he develops the images, deciding which he will use. Hartnett and Gant are joined by a cast of thoroughly disreputable characters, unlikeable yet at the same time, comic. Harnett's old mother is an inspired creation and possibly the only person he is truly scared of. Then there is Macu, Hartnett's wife and the love of his life who has a history with Gant.

I loved this book and can see the author picking up a cult following. The language may be a bit strong for some readers, but it is integral to the story, sounds natural coming from the characters and does add to the overall dark humour that permeates the novel. Recommended for anyone looking for something a bit different.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Irish gem, y'check? 2 July 2011
By Dave
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book, it's gutter poetry. Great imagery, fantastic prose - it's like the Gangs of New York with a Limerick brogue. A book as violent and bleak as this should be depressing and tragic, but this is city is as in tune with it's people as they are with it. I have never read a book where people and place are so entwined. It's not going to be to everybody's taste, but I found it hard to put this book down. It is funny, tragic, violent, cunning and bleak. But there's a terrible beauty as well. It's original and brave and Kevin Barry has a bright future. Very highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, y'check? 19 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Funny, terrifying, strange and beautiful. A real murky poem of a book. Some of the best writing I've had the pleasure to read in a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Apprehension turned to delight 10 Oct 2011
I started this book with the idea that it might turn out to be a waste of time. All I knew about it was the blurb inside the front cover. It's about a city, forty years in the future, in which social order breaks down and the running of commercial and social life are under the direction of the strongest gang.

Dialogue in the book is in a slang developed to reflect the passing of forty years from now. The city is in the West of Ireland and the dialect is a mixture of Irish slang, bits of Scottish, and new words and twists of old, not to mention some interesting sentence constructs derived from various social groups, primarily itinerants.

So, is it Clockwork Orange, or Trainspotting?

It touches on similar elements, but it is something different. After reading two chapters I was open to the idea that the book might prove ok. Having finished the book I can say it is.

It does take getting used to, but the language used is worth it. Despite the heavily phonetic and oddly constructed sentences, it works and reading it does not jar or cause disturbance. I admit I was reading it quite slowly to begin with, but very quickly I got used to the style and found it helped build the atmosphere.

The core theme is power, and we follow the life of Logan Hartnett, the leader of the dominant gang, and we see how he fairs with three ambitious lieutenants at his back, competing gangs wanting to make a move against his gang's dominance, and the return of his own gang's former leader.

This is a fascinating study of power struggles, power-broking, and, surprisingly enough, the nostalgia one feels for bygone days.

An enjoyable read that demonstrates the comparatively young author understands feelings and emotions of people significantly older than him.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars City of Bohane
I loved this book, a very unique style of writing by the author, inside the heads of the ordinary people of Ireland affected by the collapse of the building trade.... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Helene Moran
5.0 out of 5 stars strange and wonderful
The city of Bohane is a place you wouldn't want to be, but from a safe distance it's fascinating and exciting. Read more
Published 1 month ago by J. E. Birch
4.0 out of 5 stars great images, flat ending
The world Kevin creates is fantastic and gripping.

It all works well till the ending, which is a little flat.

But read it for the first 95%
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get enough
After the first few pages I was wondering whether I could get my head around the unique colloqialism jumping from the pages and had to re-read some of the exchanges, but I quickly... Read more
Published 5 months ago by euge
4.0 out of 5 stars Different but well written
A difficult read to start with as you have to get used to the futuristic vernacular in which it is written. Otherwise well written with well drawn characters. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karen Duffy
5.0 out of 5 stars City of Bohane
A future landscape with an evolved street language very convincingly carried out. I enjoyed the characters, who seemed to be solid and larger than life. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Paul O'Neill
1.0 out of 5 stars Fragmented narrative
I couldn't get into the universe the author tried to create.
So, I don't feel like I have a point of view about this book, apart form the fact that it remained hermetic to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Fanny Gendrau
5.0 out of 5 stars Be patient, you'll be glad you persevered
Don't be put off by the new language the author has invented. You quickly get used to it as you get drawn into the book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by David Poyser
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky
Really enjoyed it. So many interesting characters and a great story. My favourite character is Girly. Loved the language, particularly people's names and places, y'check me!
Published 11 months ago by Mrs A Offer
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
Amazing book. Characters so strong and interesting. Language used is particularly fun for irish readers. Story is very well paced and never too obvious. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jim Harty
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