Pat and the Eason Book Club read: 'Skintown'

“It is so exciting. Word by word, line by line, chapter by chapter."

“You love a good sex scene, don’t you, Mary?”

May’s meeting of the Eason Book Club on the Pat Kenny Show brought its usual lively chat to Newstalk, with the panellists poring over Ciarán McMenamin’s debut novel.

“We’re in the back of a car belonging to the men our mothers told us to never get in the back of a car of,” says the book’s protagonist, Vincent Patrick Duffy. “I close my eyes and wonder how many girls will come to my funeral.”

The 90s-set novel sees Duffy as a young dreamer, who’s already checked out. Trapped between Skintown’s narrow horizons, he chops ribs and chickens in a takeaway, imagining a path to escape, joint after freshly rolled joint.

Skintown is Vinny’s drink and drug-fuelled odyssey through fighting, fishing, rioting, romance, reconciliation, and acid house. But what did the panel make of it?

What did the Eason Book Club think?

“I wouldn’t have selected it for myself,” said Mary O’Rourke. “But, boy, when I started to read it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a page-turner!

“It is so exciting. Word by word, line by line, chapter by chapter. He’s a great writer.”

Katherine Lynch agreed, heaping praise on the novel for how it tackled sectarianism during the Troubles.

“What was fascinating about Vinny, I think his redeeming quality is that he didn’t want to take sides and he lived in a sectarian society that had sides,” she said.

“And all of a sudden, ecstasy arrived, combining both sides. The protestant kids and the catholic kids went to the same nightclubs and were able to make friends.”

Brian Kennedy was also struck by the novel, particularly in light of having grown up in Northern Ireland himself.

“It’s well documented that I grew up in the middle of all that, but a slightly different generation – I’m 50 now,” the musician said.

“I love the fact, in a way, that clubbing became their glue. They were stuck together with this very extraordinary glue that was actually ecstasy and raves and other illegal behaviour. The modern glue.”

As ever, the Eason Book Club was joined on the line by a listener, with Eavan Murphy and her book club making a second appearance. For five years they’ve met once a month, usually tackling a piece of fiction, with the odd biography and non-fiction book to boot.

When it comes to Skintown, Eavan’s club had a measured response to the book.

“There are nine of us in the book club and we were quite mixed on Skintown. Overall we enjoyed it, but there were certain people who enjoyed it less,” said Eavan.

“But that would be normal for a book club, it’d be very rare that you’d get a consensus on something. But personally, I loved it.”

Brian Kennedy will be making the choice for June’s book, with the Eason Book Club having their say on one of the following: See What I’ve Done by Sarah Schmidt, House of Names by Colm Tóibín, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and Joël Dicker’s The Baltimore Boys.

You can listen back to May’s Eason Book Club segment in the podcast below and tune in next week to find out what we’ll be reading in June.

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