I’m rounding off my 20 books of summer with a late review, this one being of book number 15, a short novel by Irish writer Kevin Barry, which was longlisted for the 2019 Booker prize.
Ostensibly, not much happens. Two old gangster frenemies, Maurice and Charlie, are waiting at the Spanish port of Algeciras, hoping to intercept Dilly, Maurice’s young adult daughter. She left Ireland after the untimely death of her mother, and has been living a crusty itinerant lifestyle. The old lags’ banter, often very entertaining, manages to be lyrical too, and combined with the protagonists’ state of stasis, I found myself thinking of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
The men are former drug dealers, with a history of violence (sometimes against each other), and the present-day (2018) narrative is intercut with reflections on the past, the joys and horrors of class A drug use, treachery, loyalty, violence and grief.
Maurice and Charlie have done dreadful things in their lives. They are really truly reprehensible human beings. But Barry makes them sympathetic characters somehow too, and I warmed to them even as I knew I would never want to meet them.