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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Troubles
When the first few pages describe the death of a family cat followed shortly by a gory description of what happened when a young schoolgirl was hit in the mouth by a hockey ball I suspected that I wasn't in for the most lightest of reads. Although the book goes on to venture into the darkest of areas, including child molestation, abortion, miscarriage, under-age sex,...
Published 21 months ago by Bantam Dave

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite
The good reviews I had seen of this novel led to great expectations which unfortunately were not quite fulfilled. The characterisation was good and there were occasional amusing interludes but the novel lacked a plot which kept one reading. I did finish was tempted to put it down before the end a number of times.
Published 18 months ago by C. Bulman


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Troubles, 20 Mar 2013
By 
Bantam Dave (Bradford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fields (Hardcover)
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When the first few pages describe the death of a family cat followed shortly by a gory description of what happened when a young schoolgirl was hit in the mouth by a hockey ball I suspected that I wasn't in for the most lightest of reads. Although the book goes on to venture into the darkest of areas, including child molestation, abortion, miscarriage, under-age sex, terrorism and cancer, this is essentially is very funny book which, for the most part, was a pleasure to read.

During the course of the 300 or so pages of this story young Dubliner Jim Finnegan goes through hell. Like a junior version of TV's The Fast Show's Unlucky Alf, just about everything that could go wrong in his life actually does go wrong. Despite everything though, Jim struggles through, aided by his natural bounce-backability, naiveness (which to be fair, causes some of his problems in the first place) and sheer optimism of youth. Jim is memorable lead character, very likeable but with also possessing a slightly darker side in his nature that occasionally reveals itself.

Apart from Jim, perhaps the other leading character in this book is the city of Dublin. Although they are very different in tone, I couldn't help but compare Jim Finnegans Dublin to the Dublin described in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown trilogy. Dublin is shown to be a quirky place, full of characters always in search of the craic, but also a city where religion rules and the parish priest is seen as ultimate authority figure. In fact it is only when Jim travels away from Dublin to spend time in London, does the book start to flag. These final few chapters rather let down the book down a little, particularly when Jim gets involved with Astral Sciences and gets hooked up with a community that believes in the power of new age healing. I found this section to be the only part of the book that was not totally believable, which is a shame because it is directly linked with the final denouement of the story.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and horrifying, 14 Feb 2013
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fields (Paperback)
There's no easy way of getting around this, and some might consider it a spoiler, but one of the most significant points you might want to know about Kevin Maher's debut novel upfront of reading it is that deals with a particularly troubling case of sexual abuse of a young Dublin boy by a Catholic priest. I didn't know this beforehand myself, but you can see it coming from very early on - almost from the moment that the rather smugly arrogant parish priest looks 14 year-old Jim Finnegan up and down in response to his mother's pleas to consider him for a prestigious position as an altar boy. The Fields is however about much more than this - and it's actually a very funny book - but the reason why I think it's worth mentioning that unpleasant matter here is that you simply can't talk about anything else in this book without that fact being known. It's an experience that colours everything and, evidently, has a profound impact on the direction that the young narrator's life takes.

And, in essence, that's the main theme of The Fields, the book considering the childhood experiences that mark us most, form our character and personality and set us on unexpected directions in adult life. It's a coming-of-age story then and it has many elements that anyone growing up during the 80s will recognise - but it's one that will have particular resonance for anyone who has grown up in Ireland during a time when the Catholic church held a unassailable position of authority, influence and unquestioning respect. If The Fields does nothing else, it helps the reader to understand why such abuses occurred and why no one - least of all young impressionable children - dared to speak out about them. These are indeed more "innocent times", and in many ways, The Fields is about that loss of innocence - from the perspective of an abused child, but how society has changed so much from those days.

I'm probably making The Fields sound much more serious than it is, when the primary characteristic of the book is dictated by the humorous way it's related by Jim Finnegan, his discovery of music, fashion, girls, of being an "outsider", of the absurdity workings of a country where Republicanism and Religion strangely still hold sway in the face of the encroaching openness of the wider world. The conflict between these two incompatible worlds gives rise to absurdly funny situations as well as having grave consequences for young Jim, particularly when it leads him down a familiar road that would take many generations of Irish people across the channel to England and the big smoke of London. Some of the "resolutions" to the issues raised in the book seem a little far-fetched, but the essence and humour of the book are clearly based on reality, and it's sometimes all the more horrifying and funny for it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Sad, Moving, and Brilliant Story about a teenage Irish Lad, 23 April 2013
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fields (Hardcover)
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This is a debut novel from Kevin Maher, it tells of the story of Jim Finnegan and starts our tale in 1984 when `Finno' is the tender age of thirteen. He lives with his Mammy and Daddy in Dublin and his five sisters. He also loves `Bronski Beat' and his best mate Gary whose own Daddy has to fly for the worlds worse named air line, yes Aer Lingus. Being thirteen he has more hormones than an artificial insemination production plant (if they actually exist, I haven't Googled it yet) and falls for Saidhbh who's own father is in `The Movement' which is code for the IRA, or at least everyone thinks he is. Either way he hates the ruddy Brits and loves all things Gaelic, hence the extensive use of consonants in all of his children's names.

He has to put up with a number of life's travails and also the very much unwanted attention of one of the Priests after he gets volunteered to be an altar boy. As his shenanigans get more adult in nature, his youthful innocence, which wasn't too innocent to be honest, leads him to have to make decisions that many a fully fledged adult would have problems with. The result is a brilliant story that races along so fast you are always left wanting more.

Kevin Maher has done that trick that eludes so many authors, in that he has dealt with some very difficult issues and still managed to keep the humour levels ramped right up, if this were a Rockumentary, the humour levels would be set on eleven - if you get my drift. Even when things are desperate he still manages to be funny. His observations are all brilliantly observed, but more impressive as they are done though the eyes of a fourteen year old tasting the highs and lows of life, often for the first time.

I absolutely loved this book, Maher has had abundant opportunities in writing before having worked for `The Times', `Time Out' and `The Guardian' but this has his finger prints all over it in terms of an individual style. It was clearly a labour of love and it shines off the pages. I laughed so much on one commute into London, two fellow commuters asked me what I was reading, I thoroughly recommend this and you don't have to be Irish to get the humour as it works across the divides and I am already looking forward to Kevin Maher's next one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deft Fielding, 15 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Fields (Kindle Edition)
Everyone who picks up this book about abuse and abortion in mid-eighties Dublin will walk away with one huge question reverberating around their soul.

Jesus, were the eighties really three decades ago?

Though technically, that should be Jaysus, because, as mentioned, this book is set in Ireland. And it's a very Irish book. Yet although its action unfolds a good thirty years ago (I'm not going to stop saying that until it sinks in) The Fields deals with issues that are sadly all too contemporary. The death of Savita Halappanavar late last year after being refused an abortion is proof, were any needed, that despite proudly harbouring the European bases of Google and other forward-thinking companies, the Republic of Ireland can still be as backward-looking as any Thatcherite conservative.

The same goes for the novel's other Big Issue--clerical abuse. With the media furore surrounding the election of Francis I, it might be all too easy to forget the paedophilic scandals that dogged his predecessors. Though things will thankfully never be as catastrophically bad as the period in which The Fields is set (a 1986 edition of Irish magazine Magill claimed that one in four Irish girls had been sexually abused by 18) it is well to remember that molestation--clerical or otherwise--is not yet a thing of the past.

But if these awful, miserable words--words like "abuse" and "molestation" and "clerical"--have you grimly anticipating 300 misery-filled pages, take heart. You could not be more wrong. With this clever, witty debut novel, film-critic turned Times-columnist Kevin Mayer has written a book that is by turns touching, lighthearted and darkly hilarious. It's convincingly narrated by fourteen year old Jim, and while it never shies away from the tragedy and horror, some of the book's funniest moments occur just after--or during--its bleakest events. This is not only refreshing, but realistic--kids continually fashion blunt jokes from things adults would euphemise into oblivion--and it nurtures a current of optimism befitting a story that is, after all, the tale of a teenage Dubliner drinking, shagging and dancing to bad disco. Yup. Angela's Ashes this isn't.

If there is any criticism it must be confined to small patches, most obviously the beginning and end. The book opens with the family cat having its head run over (spoilers: it dies) and while this is half-heartedly referred back to a few times throughout the rest of the narrative, it feels a bit like an artificial attempt to start things off with the Weighty Subject of Death. And the controversial ending, while brave and unconventional, could just as easily be described as a confusing copout. But this matters little when compared to the overall achievement--dealing maturely with growing up in Ireland amidst the shadow of clerical abuse yet never taking itself too seriously; taking on the largest of topics while remaining fun, pacey, and above all entertaining; writing about smalltown boys in the eighties (three decades!) while still appearing fresh and contemporary.

Like Hooked on Classics, the 1981 album referenced throughout (along with Boy George and Jimmy Somerville) The Fields is old music set to a new beat. It's just a shame the issues it confronts aren't yet as distant as big hair and shoulder pads.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and sympathetic, 10 July 2013
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This review is from: The Fields (Kindle Edition)
Amusing, quirky and well-written, although the storyline is unlikely and the ending even more so. Nonetheless a very satisfying read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I am a Dubliner living abroad and I was laughing out loud during some parts of the book. It brought back many childhood memories, 31 May 2013
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This review is from: The Fields (Hardcover)
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Looking forward to the next one he has published. I'll definitely be buying it. Thank you
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny & sad - a real Northern Irish coming of age story., 21 May 2013
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fields (Hardcover)
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What I particularly enjoyed was how clever Kevin Maher has been in lifting his reader away from the powerfully dark aspects of his novel with his brilliant sense of humour. For a debut novel that's quite an accomplishment.

The Fields is a long, hard look at the life of Jim Fennegan and begins in 1984 when Jim's a 13 year old hormone time bomb. He's not a real innocent, what 13 year old boy is, and it's not long before he's falling for the lovely Saidhbh whose father might, or might not, be an important player in The Movement (IRA). However, Jim's path through the plot is far from easy, this isn't a love story, and Kevin Maher sets him up for some seriously nasty situations including sexual abuse. The poor lad has so much to deal with and that's what keeps you hooked into the story. You just want to find out what happens to Jim and whether or not he'll find his way out of the maze. Jim's a tough, resilient character created with so much warmth and spirit he's impossible to dislike.

The Fields is a series of brilliantly sharp observations on how it feels to be a teenage boy experiencing the dark and lighter side of life and trying to make sense of it all. There are times when Maher goes on and on for so long his dialogue becomes a deluge rather than a stream but; it's a concept that works for this book. The background of Dublin in the 1980s is well done and the mix of themes fascinating. There's a lot of texture to the plot and the humourous angle spins you around and makes you smile at some 'inappropriate' moments.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small Town Boy, 28 April 2013
By 
Cat Mac "tagatha" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fields (Hardcover)
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The opening jacket blurb for this book tells us that 'The Fields is an unforgettable story of an extraordinary character: Jim's voice leaps off the page and straight into the reader's heart...', and for once, the blurb gets it exactly right.

Jim Finnegan is a thirteen year old only son in a family of 5 sisters, growing up in Dublin in 1984. The Fields plots his story over a year or so in which his whole life changes and this innocent, loving and slightly cheeky young boy is forced to grow up very fast indeed. It is indeed written as if his voice leaps off the page and you are absolutely captured by him by the time you get to the end of chapter one. His voice is authentic and painfully honest and starts off incredibly naive and innocent. Even as we progress through the book and some horrific twists in his tale mean that he gets some harder edges, all he wants to do is to help the people in his life, often at his own expense.

There are some seriously disturbing descriptions of his encounters with an abusive priest, and author Kevin Maher does not pull any punches in telling Jim's story through this. As the reader is so attached to Jim at this point, it lands an absolute sucker punch which leaves you actually physically winded, and it was at this point that the book started following me around until I had read to the end of his story.

It is so well written, and the supporting characters are all believable, that it takes no time to fly through reading this book. I did notice that with about a third of the book left to go, that Jim starts to get a bit older and wiser and he takes on a bit of a Holden Caulfield echo. This really works in the circumstances, and in fact, leads me to shed a whole new light on 'Catcher'.

A great book, worth reading through the harrowing bits to get to the bits of pure, absolute, beautiful naivety with which Jim embraces his world. I'll be looking for more from Kevin Maher.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Fields is worth your time and attention, 21 July 2014
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This review is from: The Fields (Kindle Edition)
The Fields contains some challenging themes - abuse by clergy and mental health issues probably wouldn't be at the top of anyone's list of chosen subjects. Kevin Maher deals with the various issues well and the story, set in 1980's inner city Dublin will make you both laugh and wince in equal proportion. The Fields in a triumph because it is gripping, it draws you into wanting the read the next chapter...and the next.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 18 Sep 2014
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An absolutely brilliant book! I could hardly put it down. The characters really come to life - I feel I know them, that I've met them. Most of all I was impressed by the way the author got so totally into the mind and vocabulary of a teenage boy. The narrator comes across as a delightful, compassionate, forgiving boy, but with no naivety about him.
Paul
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The Fields
The Fields by Kevin Maher (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2013)
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