Mahony Sweeny returns to rural Mulderrig in search of what really happened to his mother. His arrival sets off more than a ripple of disquiet as the community attempt to close ranks against the outsider and resist his investigation. But Mahony is not without his allies, and with the help of an ageing actress and a bevy of ladies prepared to watch his back, he begins to stir things a whole lot more. It is likely things are not going to end well.
Himself has been likened to Under Milk Wood. The comparison is not surprising, except that Jess Kidd is able to express herself with a robust energy that Dylan Thomas, writing in times of heavy censorship, could only dream of.
There is no doubt from the brilliant use of words, which thrill from their ingenuity, that this is a literary novel. But the author has also managed to weave in the paranormal and crime in a way that has the power to engage an audience who would normally run a mile from the usual heavy burden that a literary novel can often place on its reader.
This book rocks back and forth between mirth and the chilling reality of the murder of Mahony’s mother. It is a modern fairytale cum whodunit as mesmerizing as Mahony Himself’s scruffy but charming anti-hero and romantic lead, who can see the dead and engage in a dialogue with them.
The characters are the archetypal Irish representations of a tight-knit rural community, but the author paints them with such vigour and stunning description, they feel fresh and exciting.
I reviewed Himself as an e-book courtesy of Canongate through NetGalley, but this is something I will rush out to buy, because it’s one of those volumes which will always be a companion capable of transporting me to a magical place in times of need.