Winterwood, by Patrick McCabe

Let me start off by saying this: I strongly, strongly recommend getting this as an audiobook. Unless you can read it with a variety of strong Irish accents in your head, pronounce the Celtic placenames and sing in Gaelic, you are really missing out. Gerry O’Brien does a fabulous job and his work really adds to the story.

This is an onion of a story – layers and layers, each revealing a little more of the truth. The story tells a bit, then circles back to tell a bit more and each time, the story becomes more horrifying. What appears at first to be the story of a happily married man returning to write an article about his childhood home becomes a multi-generational story of lies, abuse and murder.

Redmond Hatch starts out with stories of his idyllic marriage – they are perfectly happy in all ways. A short time later, when he revisits this and tells a bit more of the story, there are more ominous tones: “It is never a good thing to raise your hand to your wife.” As the story circles around and more is revealed, it is clear that this is a very disturbed man who had a very unhappy marriage, even if he doesn’t remember it that way.

Early on you think you know who’s who and what’s what, but I guarantee that as the story unravels your whole perspective will change. Some changes are pretty clearly telegraphed, others caught me by surprise. There is a bit of the mystical in the story, which I’ve often found in Irish stories, and it’s left to the reader to decide what is real and what is the product of a disturbed mind.

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