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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 20 March 2013
I had heard a lot about this writer so came to this book with high expectation which werent really met. It is as the title suggests a dark read. These are fairly gritty, bleak stories and not for those who like escapism or romance (in the broad sense). The stark realism here could I suspect be too harsh and mundane for some people. Lots of alcoholism, welfare mentality and low lifes here. It is a mixed bag really but some very well pitched stories including the first and last ("Across the Rooftops" and my personal favourite the bizarrely titled "Berlin Arkonaplatz - my lesbian summer". There are some fairly silly and pointless stories too and perhaps too much repitition of character types.
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on 4 October 2013
There are some very good stories in this book, especially the one which ends on an uplifting note about young gloom. But many were sort of similar to each other, poor people and criminals getting into trouble.
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on 10 December 2012
EXCELLENT! As I expected from Kevin Barry. 'Ernestine and Kit' is probably one of the best short stories I have ever read. It's hilarious. And terrifying! I would recommend this book to anyone who reads!
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on 8 February 2015
The language was perfect. The descriptions were glorious. The stories were intriquing and well plotted. Some were very funny and some were dark, but all were told with a sense of realism
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on 9 February 2015
A fine collection of quirky stories that plumb the Irish character and setting with stark humour and pathos. Even better if you can get to hear Barry reading them himself.
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on 9 January 2013
best Irish wordsmith 2012.
Looking forward to reading City Of Bohane!
Spread the word this writer brings excitement to the bookstore .
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on 17 April 2013
A riveting collection of short stories!
Kevin Barry is a truly refreshingly modern Irish author, I will certainly be reading more of his work.
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In this stunning new collection of stories, IMPAC Dublin Award winner Kevin Barry shows his complete mastery of the genre, presenting startling, eye-opening stories of love and loss, hope and despair, and acceptance and resistance. Many of the characters here reflect an almost religious belief that misery need be only temporary if one has the strength and will to search within. The characters spring from the page, face a demon or two, and then retire to small lives lived between the cracks of a larger society. These "unremarkable" people often overcome challenges of universal significance here, giving a resonance and a sense of thematic unity often lacking in other collections.

These are not "easy" or "comfortable" stories. Most of the characters are somewhat "off-kilter," their problems somewhat beyond those of most readers, and their lives more bizarre than most of us readers. Unfortunately, some of these characters are also too weak to see hope; some do not have the energy or desire to change; and some are so dependent on others for their emotional stability that they are not equipped to face the present, much less the future. Barry shows them all as they face turning points in their lives, for better or worse.

"Moving on" becomes a major theme here. Some characters gain new insights, and some do not. In the delicate opening story, "Across the Rooftops," the shy main character meets a woman at a party, and they go up on the roof overlooking Cork. He would like to initiate a relationship, but he does not know how to begin. She appears not to be interested, and as dawn rises, they both come to recognitions. "A Cruelty," shows Donie, a sad and quiet man, only thirty-six, who has taken the Dublin to Sligo train from Boyle Station every morning for the past twenty years. If the train is even twenty seconds late, he becomes nervous and fretful. The unexpected intrusion of a stranger into his personal space changes his life.

"Beer Trip to Llandudno" in Wales, winner of the Sunday Times Short Story Award, describes a trip by seven British friends as they participate in an outing of their Ale Club to Wales. Moving from bar to bar, they reveal much about their inner lives, at the end of which they become "sentimental as a famine ship," anticipating their return home. "Dark Lies the Island," shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award," uses the point of view of a young woman (an unusual change for this collection) who compulsively cuts herself. She is taking a "year out" from her education as she tries to get control of her life. Whether these characters will conquer their demons or succumb becomes the focus of their stories.

A looming menace pervades the collection, and the author's use of the cadences and slang of everyday street life infuses the dialogue with dramatic realism and a sense of spontaneity. Every story leads to some sense of resolution, for better or worse, as the author shows that even those characters who have no chance of avoiding the fates they see coming still wish for positive change, even if they have little hope. Dramatic, powerful, and often bizarre, this collection is just as often sensitive, delicate, and even subtle. Lovers of the short story will celebrate Barry's latest achievement, one which shows all his talents to their greatest effect.
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on 15 July 2013
I expected more - where is the 'riotous humour and blistering languag'. This reads like a book by a young[male] writer - and I now I feel really pompous for saying that
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on 11 July 2016
Wonderful writing in this book of short stories by Irish writer Kevin Barry. They made me laugh and cry.
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