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The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

The Butcher Boy (1992)

by Patrick McCabe

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1,233256,447 (3.75)82
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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I found The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe a powerful, engrossing and disturbing read. Young Francie Brady never really stood a chance at having a normal life. His father spent all his time in the local, drinking and feeling sorry for himself for how his life had turned out. Francie’s mother, whom he loved very much, had emotional problems and at one point is taken off to the ‘mad-house’. After his parents have a particular nasty fight, Francie runs away. He makes it to Dublin, but misses his mother, his friends and his village and so returns. He buys a present for his mother, hoping that will make her happy. Unfortunately, while he was gone his mother had killed herself. His father tells him it was Francie’s fault that she did this and he responds by withdrawing further into his violent fantasy world.

He takes against one particular family; in particular the mother, Mrs. Nugent and her son, Philip, but it’s obvious that he longs to have his mother back and in such a close, caring and safe relationship. As his obsession grows stronger, Francie’s behavior gets worse and worse until he crosses the line from mischief to madness. A spell in reform school under the care of priests only served to make him worse. When he gets back home, he picks up a job at the local butcher’s, which of course, doesn’t help. The author never uses quotation marks so I found I had to read carefully to figure out who was talking, also Francie was so into his strange visions that the reader had to figure out what was really taking place and what was just happening in his head. Even with these difficulties, this is a book that I am glad that I didn’t miss.

The Butcher Boy was a violent, pitiful, sometimes funny and exhausting read. I felt almost traumatized by being placed in Francie’s mind and experiencing the blurring of his reality taking form. You can’t help but feel compassion for this young man even as he shocks and revolts you. The content of Francie’s mind is horrific, but his inner voice can be quite funny. In the end you are left wondering if things would have been different if this boy had only been nurtured on love and hope instead of indifference and despair. This will definitely be a book that I will remember as much for it’s uniqueness as for it’s unrelenting darkness. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Mar 6, 2017 |
I have this feeling that it's not fair to think of Francie as a psychopath. He kills somebody but it doesn't make him a psycho. And about his percieved delusions, i didn't take them as such. This is a stream of consciousness narative and these are the images of his desire and anger and fears he tells us.
So what i'm trying to say here is that he is just one of us. I understand him. I mean come on guys we all have experienced such feelings and thoughts, it's just that we've not been as clever as Francie to have them this clear in our minds or as brave to express as such.
He is no mad this Francie. He's sad and alone and scared. I don't judge him, no, i don't. ( )
1 vote R-Ash | Nov 12, 2016 |
Disturbing as all h***. Hard to finish, but amazing and scary-sad. ( )
1 vote DeborahJ2016 | Oct 26, 2016 |
Oh.my.god. I experienced such a wide range of emotions while reading this: disgust, pity, sadness, horror..and those are just to name a few. McCabe does a great job of getting the reader wrapped up into Francie's miserable existence. Unlike Holden Caulfield, you can find reasons to feel bad for this kid. However, Holden never did horrific things which makes this book so much more complicated. ( )
1 vote PagesandPints | Sep 1, 2016 |
Francie's family
In the early part of the book it becomes apparent that Francie's mother is frequently abused both verbally and physically by her husband, Benny, a bitter alcoholic. Francie's mother often considers suicide and is committed for a time to a mental hospital.

[edit] The Nugents
Francie seems largely unaware of the trouble at home, and spends the early part of the book in the company of his best friend Joe Purcell, hiding out in a chicken-house and shouting abuse at the fish in the local stream. The two befriend classmate Phillip Nugent, the son of Francie's sanctimonious neighbor, Mrs. Nugent, but end up stealing his comic books. Francie recalls vividly an episode in which she hurls a torrent of verbal abuse at Francie's mother, claiming that the Brady family are 'a bunch of pigs.' Francie takes this insult to heart, and begins to harass the Nugents when they are walking through the town, denying them access through a certain street until they pay the fictional 'Pig Toll tax'. So begins an unhealthy obsession that underpins the rest of the novel.

[edit] Alo
Word comes that Francie's uncle Alo, who is something of a local celebrity, is coming to town. A party is arranged and most of the town turns up. Alo arrives and sings with his guests late into the night, and Francie observes his uncle with admiration. Eventually the guests leave, and Benny, drunk as usual, launches a verbal assault at his brother, claiming he is a fake and a liar, to the protestation and horror of Francie's mother. Alo is totally dejected and leaves.

Francie is horrified at the treatment of Alo, and runs away from home. He spends some time thieving in Dublin, and when he returns he discovers his mother has committed suicide, for which his father blames him. Again, Francie's mind turns to the Nugents. He attempts to harm Phillip after luring him to the chickenhouse, but Joe stops him. Eventually he breaks into the Nugent's house when they are out and pretends to be a pig, defecating on the floor of the Nugent's house. The Nugents interrupt him and call the police.

[edit] Punishment
Francie is sent to an 'industrial school' run by priests. During the course of his internment he is molested by one of the priests and befriended by a gardener who claims to have been an Old IRA member and close associate of Michael Collins. He claims to have forgotten all about the Nugents, and is determined to get back to town and resume his carefree friendship with Joe.

On release Francie heads back to town, fully expectant of a friendly welcome by Joe. However he finds it hard to get in touch with his friend, and when he does Joe is reluctant to talk to him. When Francie is attacked by Mrs. Nugent's brother, Buttsy, and his friend Devlin, Joe disowns him.

[edit] Death of Benny
Francie gets a job in the local abattoir, impressing the owner with his ability to unflinchingly kill a piglet, and dedicates himself to this job, aiming to make his father proud. He has also begun drinking at weekends with local drunk Sean Fleury, and he goes to clubs with the specific aim of getting into fights. After some months, the police enter his home to discover that his father has been dead for a long time, and Francie is committed to a mental hospital.

After he is released, Francie discovers that Joe is attending boarding school in Bundoran in Donegal. He decides to go there, and en route he stops off at a boarding house where his father had said he and Francie's mother had spent their honeymoon in bliss. He interrogates the landlady, and she informs him that his father had treated his mother terribly for the duration of their honeymoon. Francie resumes his travels and arrives at Joe's school in the middle of the night. He breaks in and, coming face to face with Joe, discovers that his friend has outgrown him and, worse, befriended Phillip Nugent.

[edit] Murder
Francie returns home and resumes his job at the butchers. One day, while on his rounds, he calls at the Nugents' house. Mrs. Nugent answers and Francie forces his way in. He attacks her and shoots her in the head with the butcher's bolt gun. He cuts her open and writes the word 'PIG' over the walls in an upstairs room with her blood. He puts her into the cart in which he transports the offal and meat-waste, covering her body with the detritus. He casually resumes his rounds and makes his way back to the abattoir, where he is apprehended by the police. He leads them on a wild goose chase for Mrs. Nugent's body, and escapes from them for a time, but he is recaptured and eventually imprisoned after revealing where her dismembered corpse is.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCabe, Patrickprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, BrianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the McCabes, Brian, Eugene, Mary, and Dympna
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When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent.
I was thinking about Mrs. Nugent standing their crying.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385312377, Paperback)

"I was thinking how right ma was -- Mrs. Nugent all smiles when she met us and how are you getting on Mrs and young Francis are you both well? . . .what she was really saying was: Ah hello Mrs Pig how are you and look Philip do you see what's coming now -- The Pig Family!"

This is a precisely crafted, often lyrical, portrait of the descent into madness of a young killer in small-town Ireland. "Imagine Huck Finn crossed with Charlie Starkweather," said The Washington Post. Short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award and England's prestigious Booker Prize.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Telling the strange and sometimes hilarious tale of a deeply disturbed boy, a portrait of a dangerous mind profiles Francie, known in his repressive Irish town as the "Pig Boy," as his bright and love-starved psyche descends into madness.

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