A likably rowdy first novel with a sudden (and not entirely credible) violent climactic turn, by a fine young Irish writer who's also a successful standup comedian and film actor. O—Hanlon's protagonist and primary narrator, 19-year-old Patrick Scully, relates in a vibrantly foulmouthed colloquial voice his adventures as a security guard for a Dublin jewelry store, weekend visits to his benighted hometown (Castlecock), and unstable romance with Francesca Kelly, a smashing wee girl who's a Dublin college student majoring in —Media Studies.— Patrick can capably act the lout with his drinking pals (especially Xavier —Balls— O'Reilly, himself a college student and virtuoso perpetrator of anarchic mischief). Scully is the sort of innately intelligent hell-raiser (familiar to us recently from Roddy Doyle's popular novels) who scorns to smoke or take drugs, cultivates a surprisingly conventional personal morality (—I don't believe in sex outside marriage—) shortly before surrendering his virginity to —a mad bitch from Armagh— during a drunken spree, and evinces a rather touching devotion, not just to Francesca, but to his more than mildly deranged widowed mother and affectionate younger brother. Patrick's story—which eventually focuses on a disastrous Halloween weekend when his various loves and friendships are crucially tested—is deftly juxtaposed both with fragmentary memories of his poignantly skewed childhood and with excerpts from Francesca's diary, where she records her dreams of escaping her infuriating mother and oppressive environment—and where she reveals the real object of her affection (who isn—t Patrick, as he discovers when he surreptitiously reads the diary). The stark climax and denouement seem out of tune with its previous fractious and comic momentum, but there's no denying that the story packs a powerful punch. A vivid debut, distinguished by hilarious dialogue, a sure sense of place and character, and a knowledge of their fateful interrelatedness. O—Hanlon is the real thing.
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