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Hawthorn and Child Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

2.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847087418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847087416
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 612,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'An idiosyncratic and fascinating novel... refreshingly contemporary in language and style' -Zadie Smith

'The novel that has impressed, mesmerised and bamboozled me most this past year is Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway. It begins as a police procedural, then spins outwards, never quite coming back to explain the mystery. A novel or a series of loosely connected short stories? I don't really care. Whatever it is, it's great.' -Ian Rankin, Guardian

'Ridgway's best compositions can be breathtakingly unpredictable ... At his best, Ridgway is unapologetically strange. And the writing is perfectly assured and elegant' --Scarlett Thomas, Guardian

'Ridgway writes with the keen sense of place and lucid, pared-down prose of a good crime novel, which makes the more outlandish deviations even more arresting'-Observer

'Not only in its dialogue, but in its bawdy subversiveness, Hawthorn and Child is a thoroughly Irish affair. Samuel Beckett and Flann O Brien come regularly to mind, although Keith Ridgway's blend of the grotesque and the absurd is all his own... An admirably conceived work of fiction' -Times Literary Supplement

'This unorthodox, word-of-mouth success follows a detective duo whose cases refuse to reach any neat resolution, instead heading off on dark, unpredictable tangents, the interlocking stories are too clever to be resisted.'-Sunday Express

'It sometimes seems as if the modernist tradition in Irish fiction has run its course. But Ridgway looks more and more a worthy inheritor of its best quality, the impulse to be fresh, startling and challenging without being wilful or arbitrary. Hawthorn and Child, with two policemen traversing London and trying to make sense of its crimes, is strange, disconcerting, often dark. It s also superbly written and compulsively readable.' --Irish Times

'His characters are so compelling and the situations in which he thrusts them so gripping ... it's worth reading Hawthorn and Child for the thrills alone ... And the black humour throughout is glorious' --Independent --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Keith Ridgway is a Dubliner and the author of the novels The Long Falling, The Parts and Animals, as well as the collection of stories Standard Time and the novella Horses. His books have won awards and acclaim in Ireland and internationally and are translated widely. He lived in North London for eleven years. He now lives somewhere else.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I started reading Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn and Child on the recommendation of John Self, who was at the time embarking on an experiment to see how effectively a book could be drawn to people's attention through social media. John's enthusiastic championing of the book meant my expectations were high; equally, he'd been very clear about the type of book Hawthorn and Child is, so I knew roughly what to expect: an unconventional narrative structure, a lack, by most definitions, of discernible plot, and a book full of hints, allusions and clues that will have you endlessly pondering their significance. On the other hand, they might not be significant at all. In one chapter, a character eavesdropping on a conversation, remarks: "This banal banter seems so completely unconnected to anything I know about that I wonder if it's coded. Why would it be coded, you idiot? They've just just drifted off into life," a remark which rather mirrors my experience of reading the book at times.

If Hawthorn and Child reminds me of anything, it's Nicola Barker's Darkmans. Darkmans has more plot (to be frank, most books do) but, like Hawthorn and Child, it was a book I kept wanting to re-read so I could piece together more of the oblique references, the throwaway remarks and word choices that you suddenly realise might be meaningful - in Hawthorn and Child, there is a recurrent theme of confusion over words, of mishearing, of not being able to find quite the right terms. Hawthorn and Child also shares a similarly mundane setting, in which odd things happen. In the opening chapter, for instance, there is the odd suggestion that a man may possibly have been shot by a ghost car.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Generally I agree with the other reviewers, who at the time of writing have all blessed the book with 5 stars. What I wasn't sure of when I flipped over the last page was whether this amounted, ultimately, to more than the sum of its parts. It's not a novel in the traditional sense, more a sequence of short stories that bear a tangential relation to each other. Each section offers plenty in the way of character, and stylish writing, and could - as some already have - stand alone as short fiction. But....

Then again, maybe I have just lived a very sheltered life! I found myself struggling to imagine Hawthorn's gay rugby-style orgies, or get any sense of the oddly-named Mishazzo, whom they are ostensibly chasing, and the fantasy narrative of the wolves didn't work for me and seemed an odd inclusion.

Overall though I enjoyed reading it. In a world where the bestsellers are by and large unchallenging, this is original and intelligent, and also subtly funny. I would happily read other work by Ridgway, and bought 'The Spectacular', on the strength of this. 'Spectacular' is a related short story, and could easily have been another section in the novel, which seems to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the unusual structure.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hawthorn & Child was originally subtitled, on its publisher's website, `A Set of Misunderstandings'. The misunderstandings might begin in trying to define it. It's a series of stories which is really a novel, about two London police detectives and the people they encounter. It begins with an unsolvable mystery, when a young man is shot from a passing car on a quiet north London street. The brief information provided by the victim as he lies on the hospital table ("They poked and peered at the body. They tubed the body and they hooked it up. They shifted and bound the body") becomes the bedrock of a police investigation, a grand structure spun around no more than air. This is a book which is all about the details: the ones we don't know, the ones we invent to replace them, and the exquisite ones Ridgway provides us with along the way. Details, like this brief phone exchange between Hawthorn and his brother, which speaks of years in a couple of lines:

--How's the thing?

--What thing?

--The crying.

Hawthorn made a face and looked out of the window.

--It's fine.

The imprecision of language is everywhere. Here, Hawthorn's brother wants to ask but can't bring himself to be specific. Elsewhere, when investigating the shooting, Hawthorn and Child take a witness's response to a question ("Not really") as an opening, when really it's just a loose end. They are desperate to make things fit. "We usually don't decide anything about things that don't fit. They just don't fit. So we leave them out." In this, they are like all of us, even when we are reading this book and trying to join together the pieces of the narrative. (Ridgway: "We want to tell ourselves and our days and our lives as stories, and these things are not stories.
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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
Does anyone remember The Gentle Touch? It was a British TV police drama that had many threads in the story - some were endings, some were beginnings but only one thread ever ran from start to finish in the episode.Well, Hawthorn and Child is a bit like that - except without the completed thread. There are beginnings, ends and middles with only vague themes to hold them together. Most, for example, have a cameo appearance by Detective Hawthorn or Detective Child, jobbing police detectives, or perhaps both. But not all the threads do. Oh, and Hawthorn is gay.

So what actually is this book?

For an answer, we might look at Keith Ridgway's history. He is a published short story writer with the excellent Standard Time collection under his belt, and both Animals and Horses feel like short stories. The Parts was a collection of multiple threads and multiple narrators interleaved. His only regular novel is The Long Falling, a sort of Colm Toibin lookalike. It is clear that Hawthorn and Child is, in fact, a collection of short stories that have been packaged together as a novel - presumably to assist sales. And as a collection of stories telling the story of a city (north London) it is pretty good. It is, perhaps, the novel that Booker longlisted Communion Town aspired to be. But, as with so many short story collections, Hawthorn and Child struggles to be memorable.

There are nods to other works. For a while, it feels as though Ridgway is nodding towards Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman; towards the end there seems to be more of a feel of JM O'Neill's Duffy Is Dead. There's also a feel of Joyce's Dubliners. So in terms of its aspirations, it aims high.

And some of the stories are really very good.
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