Christopher Tayler

  • Emerald Germs of Ireland by Patrick McCabe
    Picador, 380 pp, £14.99, January 2001, ISBN 0 330 39161 5

Just before the violent climax of Patrick McCabe’s novel The Butcher Boy, there’s a short sequence in which the damaged, dangerous young narrator, Francie Brady, pays a visit to the seaside town where his parents spent their honeymoon. His mother and father have been dead for some time – victims of suicide and drink, respectively – and Francie’s happy memories of them are pitifully scarce. His father’s alcoholic nostalgia for his honeymoon stay at the Over the Waves boarding-house has remained with Francie, however, and he likes to imagine his parents ‘lying there together on the pink candlewick bedspread’, ‘thinking of the same things, all the beautiful things in the world’. The landlady soon disabuses him: ‘No better than a pig, the way he disgraced himself here . . . God help the poor woman, she mustn’t have seen him sober a day in their whole honeymoon!’ Unhappier than he was when he set out, Francie heads back to the slaughterhouse where he works. Before he leaves, though, he wanders into a music shop:

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