Tuesday, May 20, 2008
monday tuesday book review: winterwood, by patrick mccabe
Winner of the 2007 Irish Book Award of the Year, Winterwood is the chilling story of Redmond Hatch, a man who appears to have defied his troubled childhood by making a happy life for himself with his beautiful wife and the daughter he adores. The novel opens with Hatch, a journalist, interviewing Ned Strange, a local folk musician, for an article on the folklore and dying traditions of his native mountain village of Slievenageeha, Ireland. Despite the muddled perspective of an unreliable narrator, it doesn't take a reader very long to realize that Strange is very...well...strange, life in the Hatch family is hardly the little slice of heaven Red first makes it out to be, and little else is what it seems.

I read Winterwood in one sitting while trapped on a New York-bound chartered bus. It was a beautiful sunshiny day, the gorgeous Pennsylvanian mountains were rolling past my window, and the giggles of my very excitable students provided me a cheery soundtrack for my reading. But no matter. The supreme creepiness of McCabe's story was so intense that it easily managed to break past all these warm, fuzzy distractions and freak me right out.

This novel is the perfect example of how a glimpse inside a troubled mind is far more terrifying than any fictional beastie a writer can dream up. Furthermore, it's a great argument for how the horror/suspense genre can be accomplished in an intelligent and artful manner. With Winterwood, McCabe trusts the intelligence of his reader enough to make him work a bit; he's purposefully cryptic and vague for a wonderfully unsettling effect. I don't think I've read anything that has disturbed me this much since The Shining - book that easily belongs in the top five on the "Creepiest Books of all Time" list, assuming such a list exists. (And it should.) This was my first experience with McCabe (The Butcher Boy), but if his other works are anything like this then sign me up. He's a truly phenomenal writer.

Patrick McCabe
2007, 242 pages

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Blogger Mary said...

OH I'm getting so behind on my reading list! I guess I'll just add this to it!

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