Book Recommendation: City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
City of Bohane is beautiful. It is jarring and musical, filled with lost dreams and characters pining for a past that was as violent and bleak as the present, forty years beyond our own. But the darkness belongs to them as surely as the taint that riddles the city, rolling off the river to affect past, present, and future, weaving a dark story, but a story that is completely their own.
Subtly woven, the stories of nearly a dozen characters collide, told by a narrator who largely remains in the shadows, watching over the Bohane wynds, tracking the movements of rivals in gang movements and romances alike.
While City of Bohane offers an out of the ordinary story, what makes it shine is the language, the gloss that has been attentively painted on. Barry wraps his readers in the look, feel, and sound of Bohane with language that is bright and undeniably unique. Even though we are told not to judge a book by its cover, City of Bohane is wrapped neatly in its own words, submerging you at every point until you find yourself pining for the badness of the Bohane River to roll your way.
Bohane has been likened to A Clockwork Orange due to its spattering of future slang, but Barry notes that most of his slang is actually taken from the present, with only a few inventions sprinkled into the tainted city. Barry wields this patchwork vocabulary in a way that lent definition to a world I have never seen, but when he was finished, would swear I could touch.
City of Bohane: Some Definition
Gommie Lackeen: Stupid girl. As in: Jenni Ching ain’t no gommie lackeen, y'check?
Hoors: See: Hoor Shop. Often affiliated with dream-smoke, bushweed, and other ingestibles.
SBJ: Sweet Babba Jay. This is what escapes your lips when the Trace Fancy boys have a bead drawn on you. When you know Wolfie Stanners and Fucker Burke are coming, and there’s no stopping them.
Shkelp: Found in belts across Bohane, on either side of the Bohane River, “a blackwater surge, malevolent,” lending its taint to the air, to the boys, to the high-heeled hoors and scheming Cusacks.
Intrigued? Try the strawberry tart inspired by City of Bohane.
Source: I received this book for free from Graywolf Press.