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Mickey Collins

by Kevin Forde

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Showing 4 of 4
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Sad, funny and unforgetable. This novel is very similar to Roddy Doyle 's work except with more sad but damaged characters, poignancy and endless surprises.
1 vote dolly22 | May 15, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I think this book would benefit a lot if it were an audio book.
I say this because it reads like you are sitting down in his living room and Mickey is telling you his story in his own words. This isn't a bad thing but because this is in book format it can get confusing. For example this book feels like it starts off a couple chapters in but if we were to hear this story it wouldn't be recognizable (not sure if this makes sense to anyone)

It lacks the structure that books have. Whether it's fiction or autobiography they all have a certain structure to them to make it universally palatable for everyone. Again I'll use the start of the book as an example, not a lot of people know that when Mickey says "hash" he is talking about drugs not a type of food or resolving a problem.
Providing a list of the slang terms used in the book and its definition would be very useful especially for readers who aren't familiar with these words.

The book is very interesting. If I had to describe Mickey's life in one word it would be colorful! Even with all these depressing situations he finds himself in Mickey takes it all in stride, he knows that these are the cards he's been given in life so these are the cards he'll play.

The one thing I'll definitely remember is the last sentence of Desmond's letter "Life, as we know, can be cruel but look around and you'll find beauty in the strangest of places". It's such a profound statement because of how true those words are.

I would recommend this book to people because it shows a different side of life that we don't see (or don't want to acknowledge) very often ( )
1 vote mjla | May 2, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Mickey Collins" is an account of a youngster growing up in Cork, in terrible circumstances.

One finds out on page one that Mickey's mother began feeding him hash when he was five. In defense of his mam, there was nothing worse or stronger than that, not at that age anyway. It gets worse. His mother, we soon find out, is a monster, but Mickey, who has his own irrepressible innocence and vulnerability, never sees her that way. Well, he does sometimes. "In fairness", as Mickey himself would say. But it never lasts. His dependence on her is too strong. He regularly repeats that he feels she is dependent on him, too, to take care of her, but this strains credulity. From Mickey's perspective, yes, but as an outsider, one becomes quickly convinced that his mom is ruthlessly deceptive and manipulative.

I began at page one with some trepidation. How would I last over 400 pages in the company of this fellow ? It is like being buttonholed at a bar by some loudmouth and not being able to get away. And yet the narrative never lags or falters, and it doesn't seem overlong (well, "in fairness", it might have at 1000 pages, but not as it is).

Who was it who said life is just one damn thing after another ? For Mickey, that's what it is, a train of depressing misadventures. But from Mickey's perspective, it is never just bleak or depressing; it is just the way life is, and the way it more or less has to be, for him anyway. It is all he knows. One reads with the fascination that one might watch a slow-motion train wreck. It is an account that is horrifying and unrelenting and tragic, and yet at the same time enormously funny. There is no moralizing, no lamenting the state of society. It is just exactly what is, presented in live stream, from the inside. The author, whoever he is, knows this culture and its voices intimately. And as for the author, Kevin Forde, all that is available is this:

"There is nothing worth saying or knowing about the author. He has some other books listed on www.kevinforde.com. Other than that, there is nothing. We checked."

I checked too. There is a photo, which shows him with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye, as one imagines Mickey might have looked if he had turned out ok, amused by the whole charade of life.

The account is told in Mickey's voice, with heavy use of Cork accent and dialect. It is never unreadable, even for one unfamiliar with the place. And the voice is always dead-on. What is more compelling is that Mickey's understanding of what is happening to him, from his own limited perspective, is always dead-on, just what one might expect from him. One wants to grab hold and shake him and explain things to him, as the endless stream of well-meaning social workers, police ("Gardas"), judges, etc. occasionally attempt to do, but one senses it might be hopeless. Close to the outset, we find out that Mickey himself is convinced that he "is not right in the head", though when his mam, interceding with some judge or other, falls to claiming that he has "special needs", Mickey is highly insulted, and strongly objects.

You will need to keep your Google search handy to gloss the Cork slang: shades (for police), wan (a female), travellers, on the skips, gatt, ucks (the dregs of a drink). lamping, doing the gonge, on the batter, gurrier, poppies (for potatoes), chipper, langer, hoiking a glugger, having a canary, lasher (a beautiful girl), binooing (cheating at a card game, I think), on the ran-tan, on his tod, bollixes (which you can guess), grass (Mickey is constantly being accused by his mam of being one), and much more.

Mickey on social workers: "At the time I suppose they weren’t too bad, mostly, but like they had to know more than you know the whole time, you know what I mean? Do your head in." (p. 26)

Mickey on his uncle Con: "His front teeth kinda poked out. One was dark brown and pointed in a different direction to the rest. It was like he was smiling in one way but his brown tooth was trying to leg it in the other direction at the same time. Every time I saw him smile after that I nearly shit a brick. It nearly always meant trouble" (p. 39)

Mickey, on Con's peculiar enunciation: “the childern and ung uns!” (he said ung uns instead of young ones and it sounded like onions, Ahahahahaah!)" (p. 100) Before very many pages have gone by, one can almost hear Mickey's peculiar laugh echoing everywhere.

From early childhood, Mickey grows up amidst shoplifting, fighting, petty theft, drug dealing, random violence and street gangs. Nothing that happens, of course, is ever his fault: "'twasn't me", or "I did nothing". Though, literally speaking, it is almost always his fault, since he is the one who actually does it all. Sometimes he is just the poor sap who is left holding the bag. In that sense, he is right, too. It is never his fault because he has never had the means or the capacity to get away.

This is how things happen in Mickey's world: "a fella ran out and started chasing us and Cillian hopped over a wall and when I was getting up the same wall, yer man ran up behind me and gave me a big kick up the hole and I went tumbling over and my arse was sore and Cillian battered yer man when he was walking off but he didn’t bother coming back. What a laugh! There was a gang of lads there a bit later and we had a battering match with them then and one fella ran home crying to his mammy when Cillian got him on the forehead with a rocker. And we moved on after a while." (p. 98)

There is, close to the outset, a lengthy, grossly detailed full-paragraph description of Mickey and his brother, as young adolescents, chopping up a dead fish with a dagger, with thoughtless, wanton cruelty and delight (p. 32). It is priceless, ominous, and, as Mickey himself says, "'scusting", too. A bit of a stretch, and one might almost sense that this is how this society ends up chopping up its young people, especially those that are innocent and vulnerable.

Altogether, enormously readable and vivid. ( )
1 vote cns1000 | Apr 6, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have been reviewing books for several years now and when I signed up to the LT Early Review programme it was in the ardent expectation that one day I would find a really good novel before everybody else. Until now I have read and reviewed many mediocre books, some awful books, some desperately misguided books and a small handful of good books: novels and short story collections and in most genres but not that very good novel. Not until now. This is it or this is the first (I live in continuing hope which Mr Forde has just renewed for me).

Using a novel style we are treated to a stream of quasi chaotic remembrances that takes our protagonist and his close family, blood and foster, through the making of this man to his current plight. There is nothing straightforward about his life and this is reflected in the style and organization of this wonderfully moving and engaging text. A jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are in no obvious order is gradually assembled as we read that shocks and surprises us in equal measure.

In 2020 the Booker prize was awarded to Shuggie Bain which also charts the progress of a boy from child to adult in a dangerous and damaging family and societtal milieu and I rate this novel superior to that one in some large measure.

This is not your run of the mill traditional novel nor is it your traditional subject matter. There is no plot per se but many many short episodes each with a plot of its own. What the eponymous Mickey Collins is trying to do with his fragmented recollections and meditations is to tell his own story but Mickey is what social workers and the justice system now call damaged goods. Mickey is emotionally damaged. Mickey's memory and in particular his recollection of time remembered is much awry.

Mickey does not move in the circles and society that I do and that I suspect most of Mr Forde's readers do and so some of his revelations and recollection strike off chords, I found myself mentally shouting at Mickey that he was misunderstanding, that he was being misled, that his faith in some people close to him was dangerously misplaced - I cared that much about him and in very short order. ( )
1 vote papalaz | Jan 19, 2023 |
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