Darkly humorous look at life

2011-03-09 00:00

PATRICK McCabe brilliantly captures life in Ireland during the turbulent 1950s, in a time where religious prejudices still held their place in the little border town of Cullymore. We are introduced to the townspeople by a rather elusive character known as “The Fetch”, who some believe to be the Devil.

As he narrates the goings-on of small-town life, it soon becomes apparent that everyone has secret feelings and urges which they often battle to suppress. The Fetch sadistically amuses himself by subtly taunting each character into believing they are slowly going insane. His ominous presence lurks behind every corner, and not one person is spared from his malevolent mind games.

The “stray sod” is an Irish folklore term that can be described as “being lost in what once were reassuring surroundings…You feel, or so they say, that you’ve been entrapped, deceived. Tricked and snared by a seemingly beautiful world.”

Slowly, the townspeople begin to find themselves in this depressing “stray sod” state, which The Fetch relishes.

Using dark humour, McCabe, ever the cynic, takes a stab at life’s hypocrisies and how people put on façades in one way or another to hide their most secret thoughts and desires. He communicates this through The Fetch, who manipulates people’s thoughts and makes them question themselves and what they stand for.

Father Hand, the town’s pompous priest, battles to suppress his anger and disdain for James O’Reilly, the town’s local loon who is shunned by everyone for publicly kissing a young boy. Golly Murray is plagued by her intense anger and envy of Blossom Foster, the annoyingly upbeat banker’s wife, and becomes deeply disturbed by her evil desires, spawned by none other than The Fetch.

McCabe reveals the dark side of human nature and how we often lose ourselves in the madness that is life.

Admittedly, it did take me a while to get into the book, and the often irregular punctuation and grammar did make it difficult to follow what was going on at times. However, I often found myself laughing out loud at the hilarious, often absurd scenarios that encapsulate McCabe’s twisted wit.

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