Book Review- Himself

Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Title: Himself
Author: Jess Kidd
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery

Rating: 5/5

Blending strange kindnesses, casual violence and buried secrets: an unforgettable debut from a dark new voice in Irish fiction
When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only his handsome face, a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.
His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one - living or dead - will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony's certainty that more than one of them has answers.
Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and blackly comic debut novel creates in crystal-clear, musical language an unforgettable world of strange kindnesses, bloody violence and buried secrets. -Goodreads

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Canongate Books in return for an honest review.
This is the debut novel from Kidd, and I had heard nothing about it when I saw it on NetGalley, but the blurb drew me in, and I looked forward to picking this novel up. This novel isn't published until the 27th of October, but I was intrigued by the description and decided to pick it up a bit sooner.
My favourite aspect of this novel is definitely the writing style. Kidd has a wonderful way of writing, and for her debut novel this is very impressive. Her language is very descriptive and she paints a very realistic, gritty and yet beautiful picture of Ireland, and it felt very immersive. I felt fully involved and captivated by this novel and by the picture she was painting.
I also really enjoyed the mystery element of this novel. Not only was it an intriguing puzzle, it was also a unique mystery that had to be solved. It was a plot that I had never read anything like before, so I enjoyed this aspect. It also wasn't completely obvious "who-dunnit", which was really good, I actually had no idea who the killer was, there were plenty characters it could have been. Kidd also did an excellent job of keeping this element of mystery running through out the whole novel right up to the end. The only slight problem I had was that even when I reached the end of the novel I still wasn't actually sure who Mahony's father was. Maybe I'm just stupid but it wasn't obvious to me!!
This novel also has a paranormal element running through it, Mahony can see ghosts of the dead. I wondered how this would affect the novel, I don't read a lot of paranormal novels, but this one was very well handled. The ghosts didn't take over the story, it was still very much grounded in the "alive" characters in the story, and I thought this worked very well. The ghosts helped continue and move the story along, and helped give us insight into other characters personalities and backgrounds, but the novel never became a "paranormal story".
The characters were also very enjoyable to read about, and they were very well crafted and developed by the author. She created a wide array of characters, none of whom were Irish stereotypes which I appreciated. The main character is Mahony, who is a young man who wants to find his mother. He was full of Irish charm, and I did find myself falling a little bit in love with him! There are also a great group of supporting characters, a special mention to Mrs Cauley who is an elderly actress, she was dramatic and extravagant and had a very sharp wit! I enjoyed reading about her a lot, and a novel about her would be very welcome!! Another special mention goes to Shauna who is a young woman who looks after Mrs Cauley and runs the local B&B. I really liked her too, she was strong and very sure of herself, and the ending of the novel was really nice between her and Mahony, and was what I hoped would happen the whole way through!
The narrative structure of this novel is composed of chapters alternating between Mahony's search in the 1970s and his mother's experiences in the 1950s. These flashbacks were used very cleverly by Kidd to give the reader more clues towards the mystery of the novel. It meant we were given more information than the characters were, although it didn't help me to solve the mystery any quicker!!
I gave this novel 5 stars, and I highly recommend this novel. This is a well crafted and compelling debut novel and I am excited to see what comes next from this author!
My thanks to NetGalley and Canongate Books.

Happy Reading!!

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