by Patrick McCabe - £8.99 Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2011)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781408809983 | ISBN 10: 1408809982
Strangely elegiac, gloriously operatic and driven by Patrick McCabe’s wild and savage imagination, The Stray Sod Country is an eerie folk tale that chronicles the passing of a generation.
It is 1958, and as Laika, the Sputnik dog is launched into space, Golly Murray, the Cullymore barber’s wife, finds herself oddly obsessing about the canine cosmonaut. Meanwhile, Fonsey ‘Teddy’ O’Neill, is returning, like the prodigal son, from overseas, with Brylcream in his hair and a Cuban-heeled swagger to his step, having experienced his coming-of-age in Butlin’s, Skegness.
Father Augustus Hand is working on a bold new theatrical production for Easter, which he, for one, knows will put Cullymore on the map. And, as the Manchester United football team prepare to take off from Munich airport, James A Reilly sits in his hovel by the lake outside town, with his pet fox and his father’s gun, feeling the weight of an insidious and inscrutable presence pressing down upon him.
With echoes of Peyton Place and Fellinni’s Amarcord, and with a sinister, diabolical narrator at its heart, this is at once a story of a small town – with its secrets, fears, friendships and betrayals – and a sweeping, grand guignol of theatrical extravagance from one of the finest writers of his generation.
From the closed terraces and back lanes of rural Ireland to the information highway and global separations of our own time, The Stray Sod Country is at once an homage to what we think we may have lost and a chilling reminder that the past has never really passed.
(Price & availability last checked: January 2019)