The Butcher Boy Book Review

This was a book that my ex-boyfriend gave me a long time ago to read. Little to my knowing was that it was on my list of books to read! As many of you know, I’ve been studying for the GRE in Literature and so I’ve been a little preoccupied.

Which I guess is why I picked it up, since it barely tips the scale of “book” at a mere two hundred something pages. 🙂

This novel reminded me a lot of a mix between Everything is Illuminated (which I blogged about) and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which I will blog about someday, I pinky promise). The diction and voice in this book is something unmatched, unless you’re reading Robert Burns while downing a pitcher of whiskey in a smokey bar somewhere in Ireland. This book isn’t Irish. This book DOES claim, however, to represent the entire culture and people of Ireland rolled into one tragic tale. But does it?

Because of this claim, in fact, I don’t really know what to make of this book, since it’s so humorous and culturally rich, and yet the way in which it is told is an altogether different point of discussion and analysis. The absolute lack of punctuation and differentiation between Francie’s thoughts, speech, actions etc, is confusing to be sure, but leads to a more clear and wonderful understanding of Francie. What strikes me most about this novel is the concentration on small-town life and it’s effects on the life of Francie, very much in the same way of Joyce’s examination in Ulysses, although to a much more ephemeral degree. This use of small town life, coupled with Franice’s inner dialogue, is the perfect concoction of plot and detail to make readers both quiver in disgust and yet want for more. It’s so tragic, and yet Franice, in his innocence, blows off things that us older readers cringe at. For example, his mentally deranged mother, drunken father, or the sexual abuse he suffered under the hands of the priest all seem to blow him by without hardly any consequence. Thus, this is such a brilliant novel for its interplay between someone’s inner emotions and thoughts, and their outward circumstances/surroundings. We are all affected to some degree (small or large it doesn’t matter) by the people and places we find ourselves around. People and circumstances change, and it is up to us to decide how to deal with and react to said changes. For a little boy, Francie displaced his lack of understanding and his childish logic blames the mother of the boy who “stole” his best friend.

While it is a certainly tragic story and one can argue against the illogical conclusion made by Francie against Mrs. Nugent, one can also see how in his mind, he was perfectly justified in murdering her. It just makes me feel heavy with the times that I mistreated or misunderstood others, even without my knowing. How many of those times weren’t forgotten? That were stored as bitter memories of foul abuses? How many times have I run into someone, and turned them into someone like Francie?
Just food for thought.


About Angela

Editor, bookbinder, and writer.

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