The Fields Hardcover – 28 Feb 2013
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A fabulous first novel . . . beautifully observed . . . very funny indeed (Tablet)
It's not often, reading a first novel, that you can settle back with a happy sigh, confident that you're in safe hands. The narrator of Kevin Maher's debut, 13-year-old Jim Finnegan, hits his comic stride straight away, and doesn't let up for a minute . . . With pin-sharp period detail and a frenetic comic energy, this Irish debut is a laugh-out-loud read . . .Thrust into extremity, Jim retains that childlike combination of innocence and enthusiasm that can make even daily existence seem larger-than-life: The Fields glows larger still. Fresh, beguiling and laugh-out-loud funny on every page, this must be the most enjoyable Irish novel since Skippy Dies (Justine Jordan Guardian)
Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measures . . . the relationship with the most profound effect on him - with his father - is the least dramatic but it's so quietly devastating it had me in tears . . . I couldn't put it down. And for someone like me - a slow reader with a short commute - that's really saying something (Stylist magazine)
Rich in period detail, Kevin Maher's debut novel captures the spirit of the changing times in Ireland, and convincingly conveys all the exuberance, uncertainty and angst of being a teenage boy; it's funny and heart-warming. Maher is an engaging writer and this is a hugely enjoyable - and promising - debut (Daily Mail)
Plunging you headlong into 80s Ireland, Kevin Maher's debut novel, The Fields is crazy mad, lyrical and unforgettable . . . [a] funny, moving, compelling and hugely original coming of age story . . . Don't miss this brilliant debut from a remarkable new voice (Red magazine)
entertaining, often hilarious, touching and at times deeply troubling . . . There are some exquisite moments of comedy that anyone with a whiff of Irish heritage will immediately recognise . . . Jim's strength, humour and vibrancy flood the novel with an energy and optimism that will leave you warm inside. The Fields is a story about the messiness of family life, yes, but it is also, ultimately, a beautiful tribute to families everywhere that soldier on no matter what life throws at them (Sunday Express)
Were Roddy Doyle to co-author a novel with Edward St. Aubyn, the results might look a lot like Kevin Maher's gloriously ribald debut, The Fields. Taking the former's mastery of Irish demotic and the latter's peculiar talent for unearthing gallows humour in the most upsetting of personal tragedies, Maher's picaresque tale certainly packs a punch . . . Maher's fearless and heartwarming prose is simply too lovely to resist (Metro)
Black comedy and infinite narrative energy . . . Maher's writing is immediate, highly descriptive and unflinching . . . reminiscent of some of Patrick McCabe's work. The Fields is a clever novel and operates on many levels. Highly accessible, it wears its ideas lightly . . . Jim . . . begins to believe that he might be a healer himself. The belief leads to a beautiful and extraordinary conclusion. Jim's healing - or redemption - doesn't seem inauthentic; and nor does it negate what he has suffered because, from the outset, Maher has made space for the seemingly impossible' (Sunday Business Post, Ireland)
When my friend said this was the best book he's ever read I had pretty high expectations and it didn't disappoint . . . utterly captivating. If you're a fan of Chris O'Dowd's Moone Boy then this is definitely for you (U magazine, Ireland)
a powerful comic debut (Sunday Times)
magic and weirdly moving (The Times)
very funny, infected with the rueful mirth of memory. Maher has built the serious underlying novel from the comedy of childhood in Ireland (Irish Examiner)
The launch of a major new literary voice in Irish/British fiction: set in 1980s Dublin and London, The Fields tells the vividly evocative story of Jim Finnegan's unfairly interrupted adolescence and is one of the Waterstones 11 for 2013, a list of the chain's best fiction debuts.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
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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Was not sure if the theme was about abuse, family life or struggling sexuality .Read more