Each and every book that I read represents a memory. The Butcher Boy always reminds me of 1999, when I was in my first year of university and reading novels at a voracious rate. I first read it in one sitting on a rainy March day and felt sort of sad when I read the last sentence. I also then read all of McCabe’s work (well nearly, last one was Emerald Germs of Ireland)
The thing is I can relate to McCabe’s novels. Malta is a lot like Ireland ( Catholicism, Jesuits, close community, constant rain – albeit for us May to September is blazing hot) and characters like Francis do definitely exist and have been treated in similar manner.
Frances Brady is a product of a bad household, Suicidal mother, alcoholic mother. He’s not very bright either and lives in a state of naivety, thus he is totally unaware of what is happening in his life and spends his days fooling about with his best friend Joe. Although it seems that he spends more time bullying Philip Nugent, a boy who is perfect.
We jump a few years and Frances is now living on his own and a petty thief, but his IQ is still low, when he pays a visit to his father he finds out that his mother has committed suicide, Brady goes insane and breaks into the Nugents household and craps all over their house. As a result he is sent to a correctional institute run by Jesuits. This backfires as well due tot he fact that one Jesuit molests him and Francis is sent back to his village.
Now a young adult Brady tries to relive his past life but is finding out that the rest of the town has either a) Matured and b) refuse to associate with him. He does find a job as a butcher but has a lot of rage over this treachery and quietly plans out his revenge.
I will not go into the details in how Francis carries out his plan but all I can say that it is the highlight of the novel and is McCabe;s finest piece of writing. It is a great example of how depraved the human mind is in times of stress.
Although I am not a fan of ‘Stream of Conscious’ writing I will definitely make an exception for The Butcher Boy. McCabe tells it like a story and at time a certain musicality emerges out of the book’s pages. Also despite the sordidness of the whole story, there is a lot of fiendishly black humour and at times a certain cartoonishness.
It’s worth checking out Neil Jordan’s adaptation, although not 100% faithful he does capture the spirit of the book. There’s also the added bonus of seeing Sinead O’Connor as the Virgin Mary appearing out of a toilet.