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The Stray Sod Country [Paperback]

Patrick McCabe
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

5 Sep 2011

It is 1958, and as Laika, the Sputnik dog is launched into space, Golly Murray, the Cullymore barber's wife, finds herself oddly obsessing about the canine cosmonaut. Meanwhile, Fonsey 'Teddy' O'Neill, is returning, like the prodigal son, from overseas, with brylcream in his hair, and a Cuban-heeled swagger to his step, having experienced his coming-of-age in Butlin's, Skegness. Father Augustus Hand is working on a bold new theatrical production for Easter, which he, for one, knows will put Cullymore on the map. And, as the Manchester United football team prepare to take off from Munich airport, James A Reilly sits in his hovel by the lake outside town, with his pet fox and his father's gun, feeling the weight of an insidious and inscrutable presence pressing down upon him.

From the closed terraces and back lanes of rural Ireland to the information highway and global separations of our own time, The Stray Sod Country is at once an homage to what we think we may have lost and a chilling reminder that the past has never really passed.

With echoes of Peyton Place, and Fellinni's Amarcord, and with a sinister, diabolical narrator at its heart, this is at once a story of a small town - with its secrets, fears, friendships and betrayals - and a sweeping, grand guignol of theatrical extravagance from one of the finest writers of his generation.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (5 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809982
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809983
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 599,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A work of wild and wicked imagination' (Irish Times)

'Brilliant' (The Times)

'A vivid portrait of a community in crisis ... riveting' (Daily Telegraph)

'It is a true delight to re-enter the world of one of the most exuberant and entertaining contemporary writers' (Daily Mail)

Book Description

Strangely elegiac, gloriously operatic and driven by Pat McCabe's wild and savage imagination, The Stray Sod Country is an eerie folk tale that chronicles the passing of a generation.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
While no one will ever say that this novel by Patrick McCabe is anything but dark, he has a much broader canvas than usual here, delving into the life of an entire community located on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. An odd novel in some ways, McCabe chooses not to focus on a single main character, instead giving portraits of many people from the community as they deal with changes in society from 1958, when Laika the Russian space dog captured the imaginations of the townsfolk, through the turbulent 1970s, and up to the present.

A mysterious narrator and the feeling of menace dominate the book. A number of characters find their bodies taken over momentarily by an outside force which impels them to say and do things that they would never do on their own. The spirit appears to be The Fetch, a kind of devil who, along with Nobodaddy (from William Blake), has played a role in community folklore and history whenever evil has occurred. Powerful and always ready to take down residents who appear to be happy in their lives, the spirit is well known to the residents of the community, but they tend to see and know him only in their own lives, not realizing that he has similar effects on others.

A happily married couple in a "mixed marriage" leads happy lives for a certain period of time, doing good deeds and caring for a handicapped son. Then life changes. A devoted classics teacher is mysteriously overcome during class and kisses a young boy on the mouth, something that he has never before even dreamed of doing. A possibly innocent man who is thought to have reported a local IRA member to the RUC is tormented by the community.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Stray Sod Country...[is about] being intimidated, confused--by the very thing that once made you feel secure." 31 Jan 2011
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While no one will ever say that this novel by Patrick McCabe is anything but dark, he has a much broader canvas than usual here, delving into the life of an entire community located on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. An odd novel in some ways, McCabe chooses not to focus on a single main character, instead giving portraits of many people from the community as they deal with changes in society from 1958, when Laika the Russian space dog captured the imaginations of the townsfolk, through the turbulent 1970s, and up to the present.

A mysterious narrator and the feeling of menace dominate the book. A number of characters find their bodies taken over momentarily by an outside force which impels them to say and do things that they would never do on their own. The spirit appears to be The Fetch, a kind of devil who, along with Nobodaddy (from William Blake), has played a role in community folklore and history whenever evil has occurred. Powerful and always ready to take down residents who appear to be happy in their lives, the spirit is well known to the residents of the community, but they tend to see and know him only in their own lives, not realizing that he has similar effects on others.

A happily married couple in a "mixed marriage" leads happy lives for a certain period of time, doing good deeds and caring for a handicapped son. Then life changes. A devoted classics teacher is mysteriously overcome during class and kisses a young boy on the mouth, something that he has never before even dreamed of doing. A possibly innocent man who is thought to have reported a local IRA member to the RUC is tormented by the community. The Easter pageant, called "Tenebrae," meaning "darkness," has a result so terrible that the author does not even tell the reader what it is till the end of the book. Both Protestants and Catholics alike are faced with troubles, including deaths, whenever the evil spirit is moved to act.

McCabe raises many questions about the nature of good and evil here, but the amount of free will that his characters have is an open question, as long as The Fetch or Nobodaddy is around. McCabe also asks whether blaming a spirit may simply reveal a person's ignorance about the people s/he thinks s/he knows, whether it may be related to a lack of self-awareness, and whether other community influences, such as the church and traditional community values have outlived the times. The conflict between Irish tradition and modern sensibilities has rarely been explored in such energetic fashion. Those who are expecting a novel in which a single main character must fight the evil forces of the unknown will be surprised, and possibly disappointed in this one, which is free-wheeling in its construction, bouncing around in its focus and apparent message. I found it lively, darkly fun to read, and ultimately thought-provoking. Mary Whipple

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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 13 Aug 2013
By Denyse Delcourt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book. Hilarious and compassionate at the same time. Couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Stray Sod Country - Patrick McCabe 30 July 2013
By wordpress/whattoreadnow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Stray Sod Country was a good read, as they say, though not everyone would agree. It's full of interesting characters seen from the perspective of an omniscient and quite nasty narrator, who slips in and out of the story like a malicious Lord of Misrule, fresh from a Shakespearean comedy.

Characters are mostly foolish, and often mean and selfish: they are rarely heroic. This is a book of ineffable cynicism, set in an Ireland of broken dreams, failed escape and rampant mediocrity. Even parental love is mean and shallow - full of frustration and anger, and love is as dust.

The narrator plays havoc with chronology, describing his characters as ants crawling over the face of time, a feeling that is emphasised in the later parts when the writer moves quickly through the decades of their lives. The language is simple and abrupt, but this writer knows people and parades the whole village before our eyes - a sorry sight indeed - but quite fascinating nevertheless.
5.0 out of 5 stars McCabe at his best 19 April 2013
By J. O'Reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a long time fan of Pat McCabe's novels. This one did not disappoint. As with all of his best books, it's pure harrowing tragedy peopled by characters that are often grotesque but nonetheless recognizably very real. Very harsh, very impressive, very tragic.
3.0 out of 5 stars Stray Slog Country 16 Dec 2012
By electra wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has all the quirks and suspicions attributed to the Irishman, but it does press the issue. It's over the top. It's very verbose and the reading is slow due to a lack of clarity in a finely written line. Some parts I had to reread to get who is talking about who. Not that SSC is particularly bad, but it's also not a delightful book..and it could have been.
There are many amusing characters but the plot (?)is so caught up in wordiness that they lose their luster. Plus the fact, the story moves from one character to another every few pages and until you get this straightened out, there seems to be no cohesiveness...or reward. I see that I'm only the third review and it's been over a year since the previous two.
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