Top critical review
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on 24 December 2008
This is the compelling story of a young man's desent into madness set in an Irish town in the late 50s and early sixties (a thinly disguised Clones). Before Francie pulls us along the slide into insanity, the early descriptions of town life, through a boy's eyes, are compelling.
The Christmas scene where a relatives and townsfolk party at the family home is brilliant, with Francie's miscomprehension throwing the cruelties of town life into razor-sharp focus.
In the later parts of the novel Francie's narrative becomes more self-obsessed, offering hope that the young man can grasp his few opportunities for a normal life and despair as reality slowly slips away.
The second best Irish novel I read in 2008 - the best was the truly exceptional 'That They May Face the Rising Sun' by John McGahern - The Butcher Boy was a really close second.