From the Booker-shortlisted author of The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto, an epic reinvention of the verse novel combining Modernist fragmentation and Beat spontaneity with Irish folklore, to tell the story of London-Irish Dan Fogerty's demented decades-long bond with his sister Una.
... a bleakly comic, wildly original 600-page epic about loss, exile and mental illness, written almost entirely in lightly punctuated free verse ... These memories, as recounted by Dan, are by turns hilarious and quite terrifying, moving fluently between the comic grotesqueries of Withnail and I and the ontological horror of The Exorcist ... My initial reaction was equivocal because, on a first reading, this lacks the punch and depth of poetry. But compare the same extract presented as straight prose...setting it out as prose makes it clear how artfully the material has been handled. Poguemahone is, in content and execution, frequently astonishing, and galloping through a very long novel at the rate of three pages per minute is an exhilarating sensory experience. The first half in particular is marvellously fresh and underwrought. As things darken there are fewer laughs, and the final pages are almost unbearably tense ... There are irritations ... With few exceptions, the novel in verse doesn’t much appeal to today’s mainstream publishers, and this is not only because verse novels are often awful, but also because even the good ones rarely find a large audience. One can only hope Poguemahone attracts a readership beyond its crowdfunding backers on Unbound because, in its haunting strangeness and blazing originality, it deserves far more than a cult following.
The book is full of grim occurrences and apparitions, but told in a tipsy, confiding style ... Poguemahone is like a high dive: The toughest part of reading it might be convincing your feet to leave the board. Once you’ve done that, gravity does the rest ... Poguemahone, living up to its author’s reputation, is daring, studded with brilliance, raucous and exhausting. It might overstay its welcome, but you’ll remember its visit.
McCabe’s work has been repeatedly compared to Ulysses. Similarities include the importance of music: Poguemahone’s 600-plus pages deploy white space with a musical as well as a structuring function ... Many of the book’s richly painted cast of characters are cursed or haunted, either by the squat’s demons or their own, dying early by their own hands or through abuse. At the centre of it all is the stormy relationship between Dan and Una ... Though it won’t appeal to all fans of his earliest work, McCabe may be right when he claims that Poguemahone is his best book: it is startlingly original, moving, funny, frightening and beautiful.