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.
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.
... evokes the expected 1970s trio of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll—the music of David Bowie, Mott the Hoople and of course the Pogues always seems to be blasting in the background—but the psychedelia has a demonic aspect that Dan and Una are prone to attribute to some malign spirit ... The notable feature, though, is the writing. This is free verse in the freest possible sense—nothing more, really, than line breaks imposed on an otherwise unbroken monologue. The style operates under the assumption that the Irish oral tradition is intrinsically poetic, which is true to an extent, but perhaps not to the extent that this verbose, frequently repetitive novel thinks. Mr. McCabe takes exaggerated liberties with the reader’s time and patience in the way that an elderly patron might with a stranger at a pub. There are plenty of outrageous stories, all delivered with unflagging flair, but prospective readers are advised to equip themselves like that cornered pub-goer: with a tall glass of whiskey at hand.