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The man from the mountains
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Still can't find what you're looking for? More Ski destinations:. Telluride Vacation Rentals Vail Vacation Rentals Winter Park Vacation Rentals Big Sky Vacation Rentals His new novel, Winterwood, a sustained achievement of often dazzling brilliance, examines the old versus new Ireland conflict. This has been successfully attempted before, not least by McCabe himself, but arguably never pulled off with such enlightenment and finesse as within these pages.
The protagonist of the book is Redmond Hatch, a shape-shifting monster who, like most of them, is all too human.
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Shape-shifting has been prominent in Celtic mythology, more Welsh than Irish in its associations, though Aoife's stepchildren, the Children of Lir, were turned into swans in order to banish them a tale recounted by the Irish folklorist Lady Augusta Gregory. Hatch hails from the Midland mountains of Ireland, and it's he who narrates Winterwood. Over the years we see this mountain boy move adroitly between the depressed margins of Irish and London-Irish society and the status and acclaim of Dublin's professional media classes. These transitions are always difficult for a writer to achieve convincingly, but McCabe does it seamlessly, rendering Hatch all the more sinister in the process.
There are problems inherent in dealing with both a shape-shifter and an unreliable narrator. How literally or metaphorically should we take these transformations, and which elements are we to believe and which are we to discard from the troubled Hatch's tale? The strength of this book is that the quality of the writing largely circumvents any such difficulties, allowing the story to work on several levels.
One of the things McCabe particularly excels at is evoking the quiet, mordant desperation behind the gung-ho positivism of the "craic is mighty" brigade, that coping mechanism of Ireland and the Irish diaspora over the decades of economic and social hardship. Thus McCabe's sly, good old country boys are scarier than the city hardmen, their homespun joviality often on the edge of lurching into a blood-simple, reductivist cruelty.
They don't come any creepier than Pappie Strange, whose fiddler's reels and mountain tales spun with a silky tongue have wooed the local parents. Anxious at the loss of "tradition", they are happy to entrust their young offspring into the care of this "character" at the ceilidhs he runs.
Hatch, as a local journalist made good, heads back to his mountain homelands to do a feature on Pappie, and also falls under the old musician's spell. The two embark on a peculiar relationship of nemesis and apprentice, as the older man mesmerises him:. Not once. Every time I looked in her eyes I could see she was still thinking of him.
That old snake - he was still on her mind. Damn near broke my heart so it did. I asked him. My saliva formed a thick and distasteful ball inside my mouth.
Then he raised them again and flashed his incisors. The look he gave me chilled my blood. Who knows - maybe I'll tell you.