This was an unusual little book.
I think many people will be familiar with McCabe from his other incredibly popular and critically acclaimed work of literally fiction, the Butcher Boy which was published back in 1992 and subsequently turned into a film. This was the story of a confused and wayward young boy who unwittingly stumbles into a destiny of violence and danger. Its narrative was powerful, believable and readily portrayed a fragile young life on the verge of collapse. The violence was the type you can feel in your bones and it was really a terrifying and nail-biting ride.
With that in mind I picked up McCabe’s most recent book and expected thrilling things. Winterwood had the same sense of menace and to begin with was very compelling. It is written with the same attention to characterisation as the Butcher Boy as well.
Winterwood is the story of a man called Redmond Hatch, who recalls his former life with his lovely ex-wife Catherine and beautiful daughter Imogen. Redmond revisits a place that haunts him from his childhood, the spooky Winterwood, where he meets Auld Pappie Ned a gypsy-like, shadowy figure who weaves twisted tales in Redmond’s mind about his life.
The book is essentially the exposure and unravelling of Redmond’s deeply disturbed mind. Although because we are seeing the world through Redmond’s eyes and he is blinded by his own delusions, the plot does end up getting tiresome. It’s fragmented, fractious and all of the stories and insights are torn to ribbons. Exactly what is going on and what is real or imaginary is never quite confirmed. That is quite frustrating.
The ramblings of a crazy person are compelling at first but when you realise that nothing actually gets clarified, it’s as though you’re being dragged through a hall of mirrors with nothing ever really resolved. There’s no enjoyment in that.
The genius of McCabe can never be doubted though, because he is still a masterful writer- there are however too many unresolved threads in this book for it to be enjoyable.