When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland's west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the lies of his past.
No one - living or dead - will tell Mahony what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite his certainty that more than one of the villagers knows the sinister truth.
Between Mulderrig's sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.
Himself by Jess Kidd is published by Canongate on 27 October 2016 and is the author's debut novel.
Prepare yourself for a story that is written so beautifully, so poetically, with wit and humour and ghosts and fables. Himself really is a stunning book and Jess Kidd paints such colourful characters, Her use of language is beguiling and creates such a sense of place, and of people that the reader feels almost part of the small town of Mulderrig in rural West Ireland.
Mahony is a man with a mission. He's travelled to Mulderrig to uncover the mystery of why his mother left him at a convent. He's only just found out that a letter was tucked alongside him when he was found on the steps of the convent, and there is no way that he is leaving town until he finds the truth.
Mahony's arrival stirs up a whole lot of tension, memories and anxieties in the town and disturbs the ghosts of previous occupants. Quite literally. For Mahony can see those ghosts, of people, of animals and the author's use of this supernatural element adds an intriguing and quite superb layer to the story.
Mahoney draws women to him, they find him irresistible, and he finds willing helpers in Mrs Cauley, Shauna and Bridget; three colourful women who each have their own reasons for aiding Mahoney in his quest. They uncover secrets and danger, and terrible people. Wicked priest Father Quinn and Widow Farrelly being two of the most obnoxious, but brilliantly created characters I've come across for a very long time. The hypocrisies of the inhabitants of this small town are exposed, just as Orla; Mahoney's late mother did her best to expose them, which ultimately was her downfall.
Himself is a book that is hard to describe, yet is one that I want to recommend to everyone. It's different, it sparkles. It is so funny, yet so so sad. The characters amaze, the writing is superb. Just read it, please!
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of Himself for review.
Jess completed her first degree in Literature with The Open University after leaving college to have her daughter. She continued to work and study part-time, finally gaining a PhD in the field of creative writing studies. Jess’s dissertation focused on the ways in which disparate modes and genres can be brought into correspondence to create new hybrid forms in crime fiction. Her research covered several key crime fiction and magical realist texts, along with the work of John Millington Synge and Dylan Thomas. Jess has taught creative writing at undergraduate level and to adult learners. She has also worked as a support worker specialising in acquired brain injury, a PA to a Rector, and an administrator at a local community centre.
Jess was brought up in London as part of a large family from Mayo, and plans to settle somewhere along the west coast of Ireland in the next few years. Until then, she lives in London with her daughter.
Jess is now finishing her second and third novels, planning her fourth, and working on her first collection of short stories – many of which are either set in Ireland or have Irish protagonists. HIMSELF is Jess’s first novel.