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on 16 September 1999
Narrated through the eyes of young Frankie Brady, the sheer monotony of life in a dreary provincial town coupled with the acute problems of his unhappy parents make for a fascinating and hilarious novel with tragedy never far away.Quite simply a novel which must be read more than once!
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on 15 November 2013
The Butcher Boy is similar in some respects to Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory. Both are narrated by troubled juvenile boys from dysfunctional families and whose actions are driven by emotional poverty; a tragic lack of love and hope. Authors like McCabe and Banks have an incredible talent for creating a compassion for the narrator even as he shocks and revolts us.

I loved The Butcher Boy. What I particularly enjoyed was the deliberate dearth of punctuation which called attention to the sing-song hysteria of Francie. It gave it immediacy and honesty; the innocence of youth so startlingly pure, spoiled.

I have wondered (and at times worried about) why I am drawn to these deeply dark, twisted, violent and disturbing books. I think ultimately it is because of the adenaline infused emotion of being placed right smack inside of the warped mind of the protagonist while at the same time being aware of what is going on outside of the delusion and ignorance. It is a ride like no other!

Irrespective of genre, a good book is one that lives with you and never fully goes away. It leaves an imprint on your consciousness, for whatever reason. This book will remain with me for some time.
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on 10 September 2013
Darkly comic, The Butcher Boy, is McCabe's tour de force. He achieves an authentic narrative voice, documenting young Francie's decline into madness. We witness his love, and his loss, the harsh realities of life, the brutality of the catholic church and the adults that fail him. This is an excellent read, both funny and poignant, and Francie Brady is an unreliable narrator of gigantic proportions.
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Narrated by the seriously disturbed - yet curiously empathetic - Francie Brady, as he recalls his youth: "When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent."
The narrative covers around four years, during which time Francie's dysfunctional family life (mother having a breakdown, father a drunk) completely comes to an end. The only stability in his life is his friend Joe - their friendship harks back to an innocent time. But Joe is turning away from Francie's extreme behaviour; growing up, no longer interested in comic books. Worse, he is hanging out with middle class Philip Nugent, on whose family - most particularly his mother - Francie's mind has come round to pinning all his woes.
Strange, delusional yet extremely compelling read.
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on 2 October 2007
After reading McCabe's Modern Gothic classic 'The Dead School' for my A-level English Literature course, I was inspired to search out his other works. I have just finished reading 'The Butcher Boy' and don't quite know how to react! I can only describe the style of narrative as a kind of 'fragmented stream-of-consciousness' - the narrator is a disenfranchised boy, Francie, living in late-1950s Ireland who loses his mother and father to suicide and drink respectively and subsequently becomes violently obsessed with well-brought-up schoolboy Philip Nugent, whose own family is in many ways the antithesis of Francie's.
Packed full of bizarre characters such as the paedophilic priest, 'Tiddly', who Francie exploits whilst having a spell in approved school (for defecating on Mrs Nugent's carpet no less!) and Francie's Uncle Alo, with his unrequited love for Francie's mother making him just one example of the sad and deluded lives contained within the book. The tale has enough of the gothic within it to remind me of 'The Wasp Factory', whose narrator leads a similarly confused existence, however the end is far more cruel and will surely have you feeling pity for Francie, no matter how monstrous he has become.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 September 2014
This remarkable story is narrated through the voice of Frances Brady, a schoolboy in a small Irish town. Frances's tale begins with an innocent delinquency when everything going wrong is somebody else's fault. He is a victim of his environment and his innate tendencies. This is a darkly humorous novel full of innocence enveloped by tragedy. Frances has his own viewpoint on his actions and subsequent destiny. He makes a case his life, with it's calamities, that a lawyer would admire. This is a marvellous book that retains it's poignancy and brilliance.
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on 1 December 2006
Well, I read this book many years ago but it still resonates with me today. It's the unusual mix of innocence and hurt expressed via a young lad with a great turn of phrase..the comical voice makes the tragedy all the more poignant. Seeing the enthusiasm Francie has for comics, friends and his parents slowly ebb away has to be one of the most heartbreaking stories in literature.

The film by Neil Jordan is a great adaptation..check out the soundtrack. Also, read the liner notes to the cd...one of the saddest but truest pieces of writing..about the tragedy of love not lasting forever (the underlying theme of the novel) Everything just seems to come together perfectly in this story. Very highly recommended. One of my favourite novels ever. Superb.
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on 27 May 2014
This is a tale of a boy who is seeking friendship and love and fails dismally at both, but he has a hideously endearing quality about him which makes you long for him to be happy. it is a beautiful portrayal of hopelessness, anger and revenge for something he has brought upon himself.

It is violent and disturbing so not for the faint hearted but I thought it was a great read.
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on 9 February 2014
Initially, I was not sure this was the right book for me but I soon got into it and really enjoyed this book. This is a book that has stuck in my memory. So well written. He writes as he thinks (making no allowance for grammatical corrections) so you need an imagination to fully appreciate this book. I have given my copy to family members and hope they enjoy as much as I did.
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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.
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