Friday, February 20, 2009

Kilbrack by Jamie O'Neill

Killbrack is the story of O'Leary Montageu, a badly-scarred, delusional amnesiac who travels to the small Irish town of Kilbrack. He makes the visit with the intention of writing an autobiography of Nancy Valentine, a mysterious author whose self-published memoirs have become the controlling factor of his life. Upon arriving, he discovers that town, its inhabitants and Nancy Valentine herself may not be what he expected.

I looked through this book after I finished it to find a good excerpt for the top of this review, but after a little searching, I realized that the humor and O'Neill's breezy but elegant style don't really lend themselves to short excerpts. The entire book is a cohesive whole, ensemble cast story that's part black comedy, part coming-of-age, part meta-fiction. It's very funny but never in a beat-you-over the head sort of way. O'Neill describes both everyday foibles and O'Leary's delusions with equal skill. The mysteries (Who is Nancy Valentine? Who is O'Leary?) are well-woven into the narrative, but if the book has a weakness, it's that the plot isn't as interesting as the characters and the prose, and, when the book begins winding down and tying up its plotlines, it loses some steam.

Still, it's a quick, literary read, funny and thought-provoking, and it's got a really classy-looking cover. What else can you ask for?

Edit: Upon looking for further information about this book and its author, it looks like Kilbrack is out of print. Too bad.

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