Evocative, humorous, hugely entertaining and a must read this autumn is how I’d describe Himself by Jess Kidd.

himselfAbandoned as a baby, loveable thief and Dublin charmer Mahony returns to the place of his birth, Mulderrig, in search of answers about his mother. The story opens in 1976 with Mahony arriving in the small rural town and Jess Kidd captures the scene wonderfully. There are ghosts on every corner and they haunt Mahony in his endeavour to find his mother.

The first chapter is a vivid description of the brutal murder of Orla’s, Mahony’s mother in Mulderrig. Mahony has no memory of this act however he knows that the murder is still in the village and maybe even one of the people to welcome him upon his arrival.

From the start you get a delightful glimpse of Kidd’s writing as she paints the scenes in Mulderrig brilliantly. I cannot share all the wonderful passages with you, so I urge you to read the book. And if you do, you’ll be treated to passages like this. When Tadgh asks Mahony “It’s the arse end of beyond you’re after then?” to which he replies “Do you know I think it is” and receives the reply “Well you’ve found it”. Another sentence to have me smiling was “But then Tadgh knew that a decent woman would be slower to court: the higher the mind the trickery the knickers”.

The star of the novel, apart from Mahony is Mrs Cauley. She is absolutely the most wonderful character I’ve come across in a book in a long time. Living out the last years of her life in Rathbone House where Mahony is able to bunk down in the spare room. They become partners in crime as they set out to find out what happened to Mahony’s mother. She has some of the best lines in the story. When describing the local priest, she says “When God was giving out charm that fecker was last in line” or when talking about a neighbour says, “that ones deep enough to make a well look hollow” or to the thought that the priest might have put up the ransom for information she says “that tight bastard? He’d pull the socks off a dead man”.

Mrs Cauley, the local actress, decides to stage The Playboy of the Western World with Mahony in the lead to flush out the secrets from the locals who were involved with his mother murder. This adds an element of a mystery to the story as it builds up to a climax of a chase through the forest. There’s a great fun ending including the setting up of the priest.

The story is packed full of great characters and relationships. I was particularly drawn to Shauna a young girl, born in the village and now running Rathbone House. She has a lovely sense of humour, a drive in her that’s not being realised and you want her to succeed in life and love.

A hugely enjoyable novel, a joy to read, with dark, black humour, love and abandonment and loveable characters. This is a book that you might not ordinarily be drawn to but I urge you to read it and you’ll be much rewarded.

Canongate/£12.99/9781782118459

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