Corbett's latest (Innocence, 2004) examines one side of modern, working-class Ireland but with mixed results.
Seldom does a novel come along where a reader of average intelligence finishes the last page and asks, “What did I just read?” This is the way Corbett’s second novel comes across. Narrator Anthony Sonaghan is the product of two feuding families, the Gillaroos and the Sonaghans. Anthony is a peaceable young man who makes his way through Dublin, on the run from Gillaroos, who want him killed. People are going from door to door, hunting Anthony apparently because of his family ties, although “I says to myself I am part of no breed...I didn’t want to be killed, not by the Gillaroos not by no man for nothing.” So he wants to keep his head down, to survive. Meanwhile, he must watch over his colorful uncle Arthur, whose thumb has been severed and replaced by his big toe. Beyond that, the plot is muddy. Who specifically is after him or Arthur? Is there any motivation for trouble beyond a Hatfield vs. McCoy-style family feud? Anthony narrates his story in a local dialect, writing the way he speaks, lending a strong and presumably authentic flavor. Yet, the same feature often makes it hard to follow—the nonstandard English usually works well for the story, but the punctuation poses a problem. Corbett is stingy with commas that might help make the narrative make sense. Also, the incessant “I says” dialogue tic rapidly goes from engaging to annoying. Those reservations aside, the novel is strong on atmosphere and detail. The reader certainly gets the feeling of a young man in trouble in the middle of Dublin.
Read this book for its quirky style and flavor. Though probably not for everyone, readers are likely to remember it.