The Good Son Review

A wonderful review of The Good Son in You can read the full review here.

“McVeigh’s debut novel The Good Son is a triumph of vivid recall, a wrenching-off of the protective scabs that I, and many like me, have allowed to grow over the wounds of an upbringing in the sectarian streets of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. With a good dose of survivor guilt, and a shame-faced glance in the direction of IS and Boko Haram, we mutter to ourselves, “It wasn’t really that bad.” The Good Son is a swift and savage reminder that for so many of my countrymen and women, it really was that bad and there is little need for exaggeration.

The Good Son is so much more than a coming-of-age story. It’s a finely delineated depiction of a brutal and brutalising environment, rotten with machismo, creaking under various layers of patriarchal oppression, whether Governmental, societal or domestic. As always, the women are grinding away, making-do, trying to glue the world back together while the centre fails to hold. The dialogue, in particular, is exquisite, every nuance and rhythm perfectly cadenced, the tribal music of a society wherein the incorrect pronunciation of a word, or even a letter, marks you out as alien, suspect, not-like-us. In Belfast, to be not-like-us, can be a death sentence.

Like Mickey Donnelly, the eponymous good son, all I ever wanted was to educate my way out of Northern Ireland, and never come back. Watching Mickey settle into the knowledge that his drunken father will never leave the family financially secure enough to allow Mickey to accept his scholarship place at St Malachy’s Grammar School (where my cousins were educated) was a deeply depressing experience. Mickey fits nowhere, neither with the boys nor with the girls, headed by Briege McNally, a perfect depiction of diabolical power and generalised misanthropy. Only in the company of his beloved dog, Killer, can Mickey be sure of unconditional love. Even his best friend and little sister finally capitulates to the social norms and ostracises her clever, sensitive brother. Being clever and sensitive in the Ardoyne, is not a great career move.

The long, hot, dangerous summer grinds to an end, and the book appears to be grinding towards a melodramatic, overcooked ending, but is rescued in the final chapters by an act of genius.

Highly recommended. Watch out for Paul McVeigh.”

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