"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."
Thus begins Patrick McCabe's shattering novel The Butcher Boy, a powerful and unrelenting journey into the heart of darkness. The bleak, eerie voice belongs to Francie Brady, the "pig boy," the only child of and alcoholic father and a mother driven mad by despair. Growing up in a soul-stifling Irish town, Francie is bright, love-starved, and unhinged, his speech filled with street talk, his heart filled with pain...his actions perfectly monstrous.
Held up for scorn by Mrs. Nugent, a paragon of middle-class values, and dropped by his best friend, Joe, in favor of her mamby-pamby son, Francie finally has a target for his rageand a focus for his twisted, horrific plan.
Dark, haunting, often screamingly funny, The Butcher Boy chronicles the pig boy's ominous loss of innocence and chilling descent into madness. No writer since James Joyce has had such marvelous control of rhythm and language... and no novel since The Silence Of The Lambs has stunned us with such a macabre, dangerous mind.
Francie Brady is a disaffected, working-class, Roman Catholic teenager living in Northern Ireland. His alcoholic father works in the local slaughterhouse and his mother, despite being a whir of household efficiency, is suicidal. The latest phase of the ``troubles'' in Ireland have not yet formally begun--it is the early '60s--but Francie is nonetheless caught in a cycle of pride, envy and poverty aggravated by the ancient conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The book opens with Francie remembering: ``When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent.'' By its end, young Francie has dispatched Mrs Nugent and earned his eponymous nickname. The Nugents, a prosperous Protestant family, have it all, in Francie's eyes: their son Philip goes to private school and takes music lessons; their home is carpeted and the telly works. Francie begins by playing pranks on the family--swindling Philip out of his comic books, defecating in their house when they are away. But when he bludgeons Philip's brother in a fight, Francie loses his closest friend, who then befriends the Nugent family. Then the violence escalates. Deservedly, Butcher Boy won the 1992 Irish Times -Aer Lingus Award and was shortlisted for Britain's 1992 Booker Prize. McCabe's Francie speaks in a rich vernacular spirited by the brassy and endearing rhythms of perpetual delinquency; even in his gradual unhinging, Francie remains a winning raconteur. By looking so deeply into Francie's soul, McCabe ( Music on Clinton Street ) subtly sugggests a common source for political and personal violence--lack of love and hope. Major ad/promo; ABA appearance. (May)