DNF is a new category and feature on Dog Ear Discs that will pop up from time to time. DNF stands for “Did Not Finish”. These posts will be for books that just become a slog after a certain amount of pages or games that struggle to hold my attention. They aren’t reviews as I haven’t experienced the entire product, but the are my opinions and reasons for shrugging and moving on.
It was the blurb of City of Bohane that grabbed me, really:
Forty years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and on the eerie bogs of Big Nothin’ that Bohane really lives.
For years, the city has been in the cool grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say his old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchman is getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight…and then there’s his mother.
City of Bohane is a unique and visionary novel that blends influence from film and the graphic novel, from Trojan beats and calypso rhythms, from Celtic myth and legend, from fado and the sagas, and from all the great inheritance of Irish literature. A work of mesmerising imagination and vaulting linguistic invention, it is a taste of the startlingly new.
It was with a palpitating excitement that I received it in the post and an agonising few days passed before I could pick it up and dive in. Sadly within a few pages I was feeling a sense of dread as my opinion – buoyed by enthusiasm – started to wane. I consider myself quite open minded when it comes to narration and dialogue, but City of Bohane stretched my patience and thinking, vastly.
The book is written with an incredibly broad Irish accent, which includes many colloquialisms and nuances. In fact there’s even a sense of Caribbean twang and flair added to the flow of the sentences. To me, it was a massive stumbling block. Dashes of accents heighten a prose to whole new levels; such as Southern Americanisms or far flung alien apostrophes that seem to occur on every vowel. But Kevin Barry’s usage here made me go back and reread passages just to understand what was said, which is a huge turn off.
The story itself was actually very good; a traditional gang turf war with plenty of violence and bad language. It was a mash up of Sci-Fi, Noir and Black Comedy, which is a brilliant recipe. However no matter how enthused I became by the plot, the surrounding world and the characters, that dialogue just crept back in an knocked me back down. Below is a rather light example of the text:
“Cusacks gonna suck up a welt o’ vengeance by n’ by and if yer askin’ me, like? A rake o’ them tossers bullin’ down off the rises is the las’ thing Smoketown need.”
This is then followed one sentence later by:
“More’n talk’s what I gots a fear on, H. Is said they gots three flatblocks marked Cusack ‘bove on the rises this las’ while an’ that’s three flatblocks fulla headjobs with a grá on ’em for rowin’, y’ check me?”
The other character is this conversation replies that he understands all too well. That’s good, but I wish I did. This is the first conversation in the book and only by slowing my reading right down to absorb every word can it flow into my mind. This lead to a very stilted reading experience and hence lead to me shelving the novel after just 50-odd pages (I tried to read it four times and that was as far as I got!). I was utterly disappointed, though I am sure for some they will revel in the dialogue and enjoy the book.
Bizarrely I think I’d love it as an audiobook, but this one wasn’t for me.